Disney Pixar's Coco is finally in theaters and it's time to find out once and for all if it's anything like The Book of Life. Find out our official review to see why it's better and then some!
Emotional Story of Family and Following Your Dreams
The team at Pixar has had an illustrious career making audiences tear up for their movies. They combine a blend of childlike fantasy with heart-wrenching realism to achieve this. Movies like the Toy Story franchise, Wall-E, Inside Out, and the first 15 minutes of Up have left viewers desperately lunging for the nearest box of Kleenex. However, none can light a candle to the emotional story told in Disney/Pixar’s latest venture, Coco.
Disney/Pixar’s Coco follows the young boy Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) in his pursuit of acceptance for his passion of music. Unfortunately, his family despises the artform and forbids music of any kind, because his great-great grandfather abandoned the family to chase his dream. When Miguel makes a chance connection on Dia de los Muertos (the day of the dead), he deduces that his great-great grandfather was none other than his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz “the greatest musician in the world”, he decides to follow in his footsteps and seize his moment. In order to do just that, he has to enter the town’s talent show, made in honor of de la Cruz. Without a guitar, Miguel is forced to do a little BnE into the de la Cruz’s mausoleum, in the town’s graveyard, to borrow his guitar for one night. Magically, this one act sends him to the great beyond where he is confronted by his departed family in the land of the dead.
Coco is everything you’d want out of a Disney/Pixar film. It’s engaging, fun, comedic, and has an important lesson to teach. Inside Out gave us an interesting look at growth and how we mature. Up taught us acceptance in death. Coco teaches us about death and remembrance. For kids, it’s a nice way of learning about it. For adults, it’s one of the motivating factors for getting misty-eyed.
Outside of the first 15 minutes of Up, I don’t remember ever tearing up during a Disney/Pixar film, until Coco. The other films just didn’t connect with me like it did my peers. What makes Coco special is how they told the story. They developed characters and set up the plot in a remarkable fashion so that you didn’t see the twists coming and felt emotionally attached to the characters. So much so, that the finish is so moving, it’ll cause even the most stone-faced of people to shed a few tears.
Everyone will have a different opinion on which Disney/Pixar film are their favorite. For a while, mine was Toy Story, but that all changed with the credits started rolling on Coco. Coco will forever stand out as the best Pixar film has ever made, in my book. That is, until the next one.
Stunning Achievement in Animation
While the emotion and storytelling made the film special, what makes it stand out is the incredible animation. Pixar has always been groundbreaking in that category, but it appears they stepped up their game for this film. The attention to detail and the love they showed to their environment and characters will leave audiences awestruck.
The Pixar animation team broke the mold when they made the landscape of Coco. For the Land of the Dead, they brought it to life with vibrant pops of color and sneakily placed skulls all around. Furthermore, the mystical animals that inhabit this world, were given the same artistic care that was afforded to the environment. It was quite beautiful to see.
While the Land of the Dead was clearly the main area for our story, the Pixar team also made it a point to capture the essence of the small Mexican town Miguel and his family occupied. They did so by implementing some realistic elements and cultural accuracies.
Even the people, both alive and dead, were given special treatment, giving the film a stunning shean. For the living, the person that comes to mind is Mama Coco. Her old age shows with the egregious amount of wrinkles covering her face. However, it’s one moment that really proved how much work they put into their characters. It comes toward the end when they show her long gnarled fingers and veiny hands. It’s easy to put wrinkles on a face, but to really pay that much attention to detail on every part of the hand is really something. As for when they’re in the land of the dead, it was really neat to see the way they kept transforming Miguel the longer he stayed in that place. It became a fun side-game to try and see how much skin had disappeared and how much bone had taken its place.
Coco really is one of Disney/Pixar’s visual masterpieces.
Music Meshes With the Plot, Seamlessly
As you can probably guess with the trailers and even the Coco logo, this film has a lot of musical inspirations. However, despite what you may think, this isn’t a musical. Unlike the Disney proper films, Coco meshes music with the overall plot, seamlessly. They don’t just break out in song for no reason. Instead, each musical number serves a purpose and is used as a vehicle to move on to the next moment in the riveting arc.
Furthermore, the music itself was memorable and emotional, especially when you start to uncover the true meaning behind it. It gets even more impactful when members of the family, who had sworn off music, start to join into the fanfare. It’s as if they personify the music by making it part of the story as being shunned and then ultimately accepted for what it is, a deep bond that connects us all.
An Elevated Dia de los Muertos Story
When Coco was first announced many people, including myself, deemed this movie to be Disney’s ripoff of The Book of Life. It was an understandable assessment. The Book of Life came out just a few short years earlier and it involved music and Dia de los Muertos. Anyone could make that assumption. Boy were we wrong, though.
The similarities between Coco and The Book of Life begin and end with music and Dia de los Muertos. After that, you discover that Coco is its own original tale that seems to do the tradition a little more justice than The Book of Life. For starters, the entire cast of voice actors is entirely hispanic, whereas The Book of Life wasn’t. Then, The Book of Life was one giant love story between several characters. Coco is about family and following your dreams, two very different interpretations.
There is room for both films in this underrepresented culture, but I do feel like Coco captured the essence of Dia de los Muertos way more than The Book of Life. They did so with all the aspects of family, allowing you to understand the importance of each tradition, both large and small. By the end, you felt an emotional attachment to the holiday. So much so that for those, like myself, who have never celebrated the day, it made us want to join on the tradition as soon as possible. The Book of Life was still an enjoyable film, but Coco is in a league of its own.