In checking the list of Pixar films, it seems like there has a been a diminishment in quality. I didn’t bother seeing the Cars sequels or The Good Dinosaur, and Monsters University and Finding Dory were a step down. Coco, by dint of its reviews, seemed to right the ship, and after seeing it I would agree.
However, the film starts slowly and only really finds its groove about halfway through. The story centers around Miguel, a boy who lives in a family that has banned music, because his errant great-grandfather abandoned the family to find success as a musician. But Miguel has music in his blood, and likes to go into the square where all the Mariachis play, getting him into constant trouble.
The big hero of the town is Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular singer. Miguel worships him, and when he plucks his guitar from his memorial on Dia de Muertas, the Day of the Dead, he ends up in the land of the dead, where he runs across his deceased ancestors. He also meets Hector, a trickster who is running out of time–you see, when the last person alive forgets you, you know longer exist, even as a dead person.
This is not the first film to delve into the colorful world of the Mexican Day of the Dead (The Book of Life) and much of that first film contains the same ideas. In reading over my review of that first film, it wasn’t as good as Coco, because Pixar just seems to do everything better.
Anyway, both films are an example of the embrace of Hispanic culture. Unlike The Book of Life, all of the actors in this film are Hispanic. Gael Garcia Banal voices Hector, and Benjamin Bratt is the voice of Ernesto (who, of course, is not quite what he seems).
There are many songs, by a variety of writers, but the one that threads through the film is “Remember Me,” which was nominated for an Oscar. It could have been the title of the film, as that is the main issue of the film. There is also a heavy emphasis on family. I will admit that during the last ten minutes of the movie I watched through misted eyes. Pixar does family especially well; I think of The Incredibles (before the film was a trailer for the sequel to that film).
Coco (the name of the film comes from Miguel’s ancient great-grandmother, the daughter of the musician who left) isn’t perfect–as I mentioned, the first half is nothing special, and once Miguel gets into the land of the dead there are one too many jokes about skeletons falling apart and coming back together. But it is a beautiful film to look and the touching end more than makes up for any flaws.