Coco

B

Pixar's last original movie (not counting the sequel, Cars 3) was one of their best, Inside Out, so I had high hopes for Coco despite an unimpressive preview short featuring a dog stealing the bone of a skeleton. The dog is in Coco but not that sequence. The dog is maybe a little too silly or the rest of Coco just isn't silly enough. There are no big laughs and not a whole lot of action in this movie. Instead it is a nice look at Mexico's traditional "Day of the Dead" of honoring ancestors. And there is what turns out to be a very sweet story about music and family. There are twists and turns, but a lot of them are kind of obvious and the movie drags a bit as we wait for a couple of the reveals we know are coming (though one big one caught me by surprise). That isn't what you want in a Pixar movie.

The animation is good, some things being very lifelike, but the characters and buildings intentionally more like a cartoon. The colors are bright in this afterworld instead of gray and muted. One problem with all the skeleton people is their faces can't be as expressive. Both the living and dead families are each kind of big so nobody gets a lot of development except a couple of the main characters.

Another issue is there are no big name voice actors since everyone is Latino. The Day of the Dead tradition is a great way to introduce an audience to something new, but also kind of hard to relate to. Family and music are more universal, but the trappings of the Day of the Dead are a challenge and there is a lot to cover (plus a bunch of made up rules for the plot), even though it is handled pretty well.

For the first couple of weeks of the release of the movie, a Disney (not Pixar) short was shown prior to the feature called "Olaf's Frozen Adventure." Whether Disney stuck to their "limited engagement" as planned or whether too many people weren't happy with the short, by the time I watched the movie there was no opening short at all. At home afterwards I found out ABC had just broadcast it the night before and I had missed it, but I was happy to find it free on ABC On Demand. Despite the same main characters as Frozen and some new songs, the short is weak and longer than a typical Pixar short, weighing in at 21 minutes (perfect for a half hour TV show with commercials). Not sure a Disney Christmas movie and a Pixar Day of the Dead movie belonged together anyway, or why they would release Coco at Thanksgiving instead of Halloween.

On the whole this does not seem like one of the better Pixar movies, but if you are patient with it there is a nice story about the importance of living and dead family, good music, good visuals, and an introduction to a tradition most of us know little about.

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