Note: This is a spoiler-free Coco review
There’s a reason why the term, “Disney ending” exists.
Although it won’t go down as a Disney/Pixar classic, Coco finds a way to have you leaving the theater satisfied with an unpredictable and heartwarming end.
The story and setting is partly unique for Disney, as a boy from Mexico enters the Land of the Dead to learn about his musical roots. Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is faced with a family’s ancestral ban on music, and he’s determined to overcome it. The musical storyline plays perfectly for the Disney song, and there are some good ones in Coco. Miguel also has the classic Disney animal sidekick in his dog, Dante.
Those things are core to a classic Disney story, but that’s where the similarities end in my opinion. Frankly, I think Coco‘s story is macabre and a bit negative in nature, particularly for a Disney/Pixar film. I’m aware that seems like an easy take about a movie that sets in the Land of the Dead. That’s not what I’m referring to.
Miguel comes off as a little bratty, he struggles to find a support system, and the heroes of the film are truly flawed. Coco has some twists and turns in the story, which I’m all for. I just wish the way they get there is a little more “Disney.” I’ve come to expect a certain tone from the entertainment giant, and this story doesn’t quite meet those expectations.
Then comes the ending. Coco wraps up Miguel’s adventure in a way only Disney and Pixar can, with a touching finality and happiness for all. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!
The Disney Discussion
A few thoughts about the classic Disney/Pixar elements that exist in Coco.
First and foremost the animation. Despite the multiple studios that now exist, you can still feel when you’re watching a Pixar animated film. In Coco the colors are bright and the scenery is immersive. The Land of the Dead skeletons somehow look just as they did when they were live people, and have distinct movements. Pixar also created a giant, flying dragon/big cat hybrid of some sort as a spirit guide. So that’s cool.
We’re in a place where watching a Disney/Pixar movie might as well be watching actual actors, with how seamless and immersive everything is. Hopefully, that fact is not lost on anyone.
Next up, the songs. Music isn’t necessarily as much of staple in Pixar as it is in Disney, but when a movie centers around a family’s ancestral ban on music, you’re gonna get some songs.
The three main performers in Coco are Miguel, Hector (Gael García Bernal), and the most famous Mexican singer who ever lived, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Personally, I wish more of the songs were upbeat, but I’m a movie critic not a music critic. I really enjoyed the singing of Anthony Gonzalez, and we know Bernal has musical ability from his role in Mozart In The Jungle. Miguel duets with both Hector and de la Cruz in the film and those harmonies work as well. Overall I think the component works and advances the story.
Last, and in no way least, is the classic Disney theme of companionship. I like animals, particularly dogs, more than I like people. That’s just the way it is. Deal with it. That said, a dog who follows Miguel around named Dante is the best thing going in Coco. Dante reminds me a little bit of Ed the hyena from The Lion King, who is easily a top 3 character from that movie. Dante is goofy, clumsy, and might not catch on right away. Those things just make him wonderful and loveable in my eyes. Plus his relationship with Miguel plays an integral part, so it’s a win for everyone.
Should I Go See Coco?
I’m not sure how many minds I’m going to sway on a Disney movie. If you have kids under 10, you’re likely going to see Coco no matter what I say. If you don’t you probably won’t.
Coco definitely has some classic Disney elements, and I think the end makes it worth seeing. Just don’t go in expecting another instant classic from the Disney/Pixar machine.