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Saturday
Nov042017

Sneak Peek Review: Pixar's “Coco”

Jorge Molina reporting from Mexico where Coco has already opened...

The main thing that unifies all Pixar movies (and a big part of what makes them so successful) is how deeply they are rooted in specificity. A movie set in the world of toys, in the world of bugs, in the world of monsters, of superheroes, of cars.

But in all their movies until now, this very specificity has been universal. We’ve all had to let go of toys, and feared monsters, and wanted to become superheroes. With Coco, Pixar dives into their first film that is truly specific, based around a world, a culture and a folklore that only exists for one particular group of people.

A group of people that I happen to be part of...

So take with a grain of biased salt when I say just how incredible Coco is;  it reflects a part of my culture that is rarely depicted in a mainstream way. But, at the same time, there’s no way I can see anyone arguing how this is not objectively great.

 Coco’s release date was almost a month earlier in Mexico than in U.S. to coincide with the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration that the movie exists in. It’s a savvy business decision (it already had the biggest non-summer box office opening on its first weekend here and the word of mouth is insane). But I also take this as part of their love letter to Mexico that Coco is wrapped in.

I will not go into plot details, since I want everyone to discover it the same way I did. But I can say with certainty that Pixar did their homework.

They spent years investigating the folklore, traditions, and aesthetics of the world and culture that would become their movie. From the types of architecture, to the patterns and embroidering on dresses, and from the distinct musical notes to the family archetypes that run deep in Mexican genealogy. It’s astoundingly spot on;  I’ve walked through those streets, met those people, danced to that music. It was studied closely and depicted as a loving homage to a culture whose beauty and diversity is often underplayed.

Underneath the flair and festiveness that, granted, is ingrained in Mexican folklore, lies a story that, in pure Pixar tradition, speaks to universal themes that will transcend national borders. It’s the story of Miguel, a boy whose family has banned music but that has a dream to become a musician. When he is magically transported to the Land of the Dead, he must try to find his way back with the help of his ancestors.

It’s a movie about family, and the traditions that are built through generations, and the importance of keeping memories alive, and how we relate to death during life. It’s the story of a boy finding himself through his family, despite wanting to break away from it. It speaks to the respect that one must pay not only to personal traditions, but cultural ones as well. It’s funny and heartwarming and moving, and a complete delight.

I would need to come down from the thrill of the first watch, and try to distance myself (my essence, my Mexican-ness that so brightly shined onscreen) from the movie to question if this really ranks as high in the Pixar pantheon as I currently have placed it. It's thrilling that this will be available to audiences worldwide, and they will be discovering things for the first time that I’ve known since birth; I can't picture them not falling in love.

Expect an Animated Feature win at the Oscars in March. Expect it to be a strong player in the music and song categories; I got chills when the iconic Disney logo tune was done mariachi style, and Michael Giacchino creates a deeply enthralling score throughout. And one particular song plays a pivotal role that is unlikely to go unnoticed. Look, in a year so wide open, a Best Picture nod is not entirely out of the question. It all depends how US audiences react.

But go watch Coco. Have it beat your heart until it opens like a piñata. It’s worth the ride.

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Reader Comments (6)

I am sooo looking forward to this. Thanks for the great write-up!

November 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

I'm from Mexico too. Coco is Amazing. A Great film for the Trump era.

November 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterÁngel Ramos

At the moment Hollywood is dying so nothing more accurate than a movie about death. Better yet a computer generated animation.

November 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelchiades

Very interested in seeing how foreign audiences react to it. I haven't seen it myself as I'm not in Mexico, but since I've been in social media I do not remember ever a movie having this kind of insane word of mouth in Mexico. People down there *LOVED* it, which is great of course.

November 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve_Man

I'm also from Mexico, though I'm probably a different case here because I grew up as a Jew in Mexico City, so going into this movie I had both an insider and outsider's perspective. I grew up surrounded by these traditions, studying them, understading them, but not really that much a part of the culture. Anyway, the film is beautiful (I actually made an effort to track down a theater that was showing it in its original English language track, but I'm curious to see the Spanish dub)!!!

I probably wouldn't rank it at the top of Pixar films (it doesn't have the storytelling sophistication of a Ratatouille, or Wall-E, or Inside Out), and the tone and pacing feel more Disney than Pixar, but it does feature Pixar's knack for sneaking in mature and universal themes into the narrative, as well as the incredibly inventive world-building in something that feels somewhat familiar.

I did have a few issues though. There was comic relief character that didn't work for me (one that doesn't speak), the story felt wrapped up in too neat a bow and if you're going to have such a brilliant a comic actor as Jaime Camil in your film, don't waste him in a nothing role (or at least make that role funny). Otherwise, I very much enjoyed it, I thought it had plenty to say and I would give MVP honors to Gael Garcia Bernal (and the song Remember Me is astonishing). I definitely want to see what people in the US think about this one when they release it there.

November 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I know this will be nominated for Best Animated Feature and be the best PIXAR film of 2017. Also who ever is doing the Best Animated Feature Predictions needs to do better and have Captain Underpants and The Lego Batman Movie take the places of Despicable Me 3 and Ferdinand because those are some of the best reviewed animated films of 2017. Plus are better than Despicable Me 3 and maybe Ferdinand. Also see Captain Underpants and Lego Batman first to see what I talking about. I hope the new voters of the Best Animated Feature category will look in their hearts and pick the right and well reviewed animated films for the 90th Academy Awards. Plus don't pick crap like Cars 3, The Emoji Movie or Despicable Me 3.

November 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Hartsell

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