A Review of Coco (and of Pixar, in general)

Coco is a beautiful, beautiful movie. The music is amazing (the Lopez’, who wrote music for Frozen as well as Finding Nemo the Musical). The characters–especially Coco herself–are masterfully animated and deeply human. And I saw it in 3D, which really made the animation pop.

The only problem? It’s way too long. It probably would have been better as a 45 minute short than an almost-2 hour feature. And the reason it’s too long? The plot is unnecessarily bogged down and complicated. I’ve read a couple of reviews that blame this over-long feeling on the “cultural lip service” that Pixar played to Mexican history and heritage. While it’s true that the first 15-20 minutes of the movie don’t really add too much to the plot, I actually found them delightful, fun and interesting. I wouldn’t change any of it.

No, what I would change is much of the second and third act. The Spirit World and Coco’s extended family and even Miguel’s search for his great-great-grandfather? They can all stay, albeit in much shorter form. No, the real thing that has to get cut is an overlong subplot about a murdering jackhole who ends up being, in the end, super irrelevant to the larger plot of the film.

In my mind, Pixar is spending WAY TOO MUCH time rethinking and reworking the plots of these moves. This one has too many fingerprints on it. Look at The Good Dinosaur. Too many cooks in that prehistoric kitchen. Even Inside Out, a film I personally enjoyed, reeked of rewrites. They’re all watered down with unnecessary subplots, and the writers are taking lazy, written-by-committee shortcuts that, over time, are beginning to strip the films of their emotional heft.

In effect, all three of these films feel like they’re just plucking the right emotional strings at the right time without much of anything there to back it up. Hector’s just this movie’s version of Bing Bong. Miguel’s tearful reunion with his parents is Arlo reuniting with his mother and siblings. It’s all the same story, repacked and repurposed. And I’m just like … eh.

All that said, Coco really is beautiful. The animation on Coco’s sweetly wrinkled face is unbelievably cool. The emotion in Miguel’s large, watery eyes is unparalleled. The music and the dancing is so, so fun. You’ll enjoy it. I did.

And that’s the kicker of this whole thing: As repetitive as these stories may be, they’re still top-of-the-line in terms of music, animation and characterization. I’ll take Merida’s wild, flowing curls and Coco’s wizened, knowing grin over all the other crap that’s out there any day.

It just really would be nice if Pixar upped their game a bit, you know?


Disclosure: I attended an advanced screening of this film free of charge via See It First. The opinions expressed above are my own and are based on my own experience.

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