Coco follows a young, aspiring musician called Miguel who is confronted with an ancestral ban on music within his family. Whilst attempting to steal the guitar of a deceased, famous musician Miguel is transported to the land of the dead where he must find his deceased great grandfather in order to get home.
At its heart, Coco is a wonderful story of a young boy aspiring for greatness with his passion for music, whilst also embracing his family’s love and history.
Thematically the film is excellent, as you can expect with a Pixar film. There’s an intricate and specialised exploration of family, memories and life and death, with the very well crafted Pixar approach so that children and adults alike can takeaway from and be impacted by the emotion of the story.
However, for me, the narrative could have been much stronger. It’s a very basic and familiar plot which becomes very predictable and therefore felt rather lacking.
Furthermore, the plot is filled with ‘sudden realisation’ scenes that a lot of the time are not realisations to the audience at all, mainly due to having been previously explained to us or it’s just painfully obvious. There’s also a vast range of expositional dialogue which is just lazy storytelling, something I expected better than from Pixar.
The narrative also felt a little clunky with a ‘this then this then this’ approach as the film tried to jam in key information for its plot twisting final act, which again was far too predictable.
The very last moments of the film are told well emotionally, but again I think Pixar could have enhanced this even more to really bring the tearful moments they are often so good at. We aren’t shown some key narrative and character wrap ups and by choosing to show this instead the end would have packed much more of a punch.
I also believe that due to the underwhelming narrative that I didn’t truly feel invested in the characters either. I believed in them but I wasn’t totally engaged with them, which sadly provided a rather negative impact on the finale.
Back to the positives.
Pixar nails the cultural vibe and displays the world in glorious colour and sensational animation. It seems almost cliche to say this about Pixar now, which is a testament to their ability, but this film is gorgeous to look at.
Accompanying this to build the film’s world is a wonderful score and soundtrack, something that is very key to this film.
The songs are genuinely brilliant, and used to good emotional affect. I do believe one song is a tad overused and its key part in the finale of the film is therefore a little worn out for me, but it still serves its emotional use.
For me, Pixar films tend to fall into one of two camps.
There’s the incredible, intellectual and ground-breaking films such as Inside Out (2015), Wall-E (2008) and Up (2009). Then on the other hand there are those which fall into the not so well crafted ones which feel they are more just for the children, like Cars (2006), Cars 2 (2011) and The Good Dinosaur (2015).
Coco is a tough one to place as it seems to have elements of both. To me, the film feels a little rushed, as though it was not in its final stage yet. It has the components to be one of the true greats of Pixar’s roster, but falls short for me.
Go in with low/no expectations and you’ll probably love it, maybe my standards for Pixar are just too high!