Let’s get one thing out of the way: while comparisons to 2014’s The Book of Life are warranted—seeing as it is also a sprightly animated film about music, Mexican culture, and Dia de los Muertos—Coco proves to be its own movie, with its own unique story, its own look, and its own treatment of Mexican folklore. The Book of Life with its pop song covers and its well-told romance notwithstanding, Coco does more to tug at the heartstrings by weaving themes of ambition, legacy, and family into a spectacular movie that might just fuck you up a little towards the end. And because it focuses on aspects of Mexican culture that are fully compatible with Filipino culture, it hits even harder for us. Consider this your forewarning: Prepare to feel things.
Coco tells the story of Miguel, a young boy who must embark on an epic journey of self-discovery in the Land of The Dead after his aspirations of becoming a musician are met with objections from his family. Without revealing too much more about the plot, we can say that Coco handles it with the sort of emotive filmmaking that’s been missing in some recent Pixar projects (Cars 3, Finding Dory, The Good Dinosaur), and greatly missed from the studio that brought us such emotional fuck-you-uppers like Up! and Toy Story. And while Coco may not manage to rip you apart the way those films did (it depends—are you a man with a daughter? A struggling musician? Or maybe the child of an overseas Filipino worker?), it’s certainly a refreshing step in the right direction, towards a return to everything that made Pixar’s classics so great.
However, it also bears mentioning that Coco moves along pretty quickly, with plot devices and deep themes that might go over a lot of kids’ heads, especially with all its cultural references. Children under 12 would have to be especially sharp to keep up with the movie’s pace, and so in that sense, Coco feels a little like it was intended for older kids and grown-ups (the cameo by a certain modern artist confirms this). But of course, that’s not to say that younger kids won’t enjoy the visuals, the humor, and the 20-minute Frozen special that opens for the film (kids will go berserk for this, we absolutely guarantee).
Coco also shines for its incredible visuals. The unique art direction gives life to the Land of The Dead, and lends the entire film a lush color palette with a Dia de los Muertos motif. The effects are explosive, and the animation can be so realistic as to leave you in awe, at some parts, of how far we’ve come from the Pixar films of the ’90s, which look stiff and pasty compared to what the animation studio can do now.
But if there’s anything about Coco that will truly stick to you and your kids apart from that wrecking ball ending, perhaps it would be the main theme song: “Remember Me”. It’s not “Let It Go”, but it’s catchy, well-written, and perfect for the movie.
The cliche of having “something for the whole family” is no less true as it applies to Coco—it really is a movie for everyone. You might even enjoy Pixar’s latest presentation more than your kids will, but that’s no reason to keep them from seeing it.
Catch Coco when it opens in cinemas in the Philippines on Wednesday, November 22.