Coco (2017)
November 23, 2017 6:49 AM - Subscribe

Despite his family's baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.

Beautifully animated, this was a pleaser for adults and kids. The Spanish language was woven throughout. There were concerns about cultural appropriation but it appears that Pixar/Disney did a better job than in the past. And the film is already the highest grossing film in Mexican history. Somesay the Spanish language version is better.
posted by k8t (44 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
We could have done without the Frozen animation up front though.
posted by k8t at 7:19 AM on November 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

Pixar’s Lee Unkrich on the ‘anxiety’ of directing Coco -- between this interview and the review of the Spanish language version, I am really looking forward to seeing this.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:38 PM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Pixar does it again. Watched Coco at the Kabuki in San Francisco last night, I was the big dude walking up Fillmore street with tears running down his face.

I grew up building altares de muertos. Every time a relative died we would get copies of their portraits for next year's altares.

I never believed in spirits or the underworld, but dia de muertos was still magical. There is something about being able, even expected, to mourn an honour your dead in public.

When is it OK in white America, where I've been living the last 12 years, to ask friends and teachers and co-workers about their most missed dead, about what the dead liked and why they are missed? It is a week when it is ok to say to everyone that you wish the dead could be back even for just one night, to make us all whole again.

When I was 7 years old my 98 year old great grandfather, Papá Luís, had been in bed for a couple of weeks waiting to die. His wife Mamá Locha silently sitting on her wicker wheelchair in the patio with the potted plants. Papá Luís asked my dad, who was nicknamed Coco and would have been Papá Coco had he lived long enough to see his grandchildren, for a straight razor shave. Papá Luís wanted to be presentable for upcoming meeting with todos sus muertos.

Papá Luís spent a few hours dictating a list of all his dead people, from siblings who died in infancy to recent friends. He dictated notes on what each of them liked most, their favorite food and songs to dance to. He asked us to kill a couple goats and go buy a few gallons of mezcal. He was so excited for the huge reunion party that was waiting for him. He died so happy that night.

I stopped making altars in high school. I was lucky to get internet access in Mexico when I was 14, at the time the whole of Mexico, 100 million people, had six 56 kbit connections to the internet backbone. I knew the internet was going to change everything and I wanted to be part of the revolution. My dream was to become an engineer in Silicon Valley.

Like Miguel I put my own dream before my family. I taught myself to code on bitnet, BBS, IRC, Usenet, and many personal pages on edu domains. But I also learned that if I wanted to fit in and learn to write code first I had to learn to code switch.

I stopped making altares. I built new identities online. I made myself as American ad I could (the kind of early web American, fnord and hail Eris and information wants to be free).

Long story short I made it after 10 years. I made it all the way to being a senior software engineer at Google for the last 5 years. And after having worked with or met a bunch of CEOs and founders, my former heroes, I started seeing the real Ernesto de la Cruz.

I am going back to Mexico in 9 days. To be close to todos mis muertos. To get to know my living family so I can honor them when they die. I am taking my 5 year old, who barely knows her Mexican family.

I wake up from nightmares, I have anxiety attacks. How can I be leaving all this? This was my life long dream, my destiny! Is this a huge mistake? Am I messing up my daughter's future by taking her back to Mexico?

Watching Coco stirred old memories, reminded me of how I never felt whole in San Francisco. Of how much knowing todos tus muertitos helps you know who you are.

So long and thanks for all the fish. Next year altar is going to kick ass.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 11:59 AM on November 24, 2017 [153 favorites]

What an astonishingly beautiful, wonderful film. Go see it on the big screen, but you may want to bring kleenex and sit by yourself; There were a lot of people sniffling (myself included) as everyone left the theater. Kids will love this movie as a fun adventure while understanding its underlying message, but I think its emotional resonance may be a lot stronger for grownups. Right in the damn feels.

(Edward James Olmos, who has a small part in the film, when asked if it made him cry: "Yeah. Heaving sobs the first time.")
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 6:12 AM on November 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Stunning, beautiful movie.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:03 PM on November 25, 2017

Overheard on the way out of the theatre "that was a total novella move" wrt the poisoning twist. Which I think is high praise.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:01 PM on November 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

So, I'm white, and my family's tiny, and I'm not very close to them. Many of them are dead, but to be honest, most of them were awful people that I don't particularly miss. Is Coco a movie I can still enjoy? (TBH I actually hate watching movies about large, loving families because that is so far from my experience, and I resent it.)
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:41 AM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I actually hate watching movies about large, loving families because that is so far from my experience, and I resent it.
It's a family-oriented film rooted in a Mexican tradition that is specifically about venerating the memories of departed family members, so... maybe give this one a miss? Visually it's quite stunning, and I will say that the protagonist's family (both in the real world and in the land of the dead) are set up as antagonists at the start of the story, but this is after all a Pixar movie so expect some positive resolution there.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 9:04 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

(Culturally, mine is a relatively small, not very demonstrative, and very white yankee family. That makes no difference at all in terms being able to enjoy this film.)
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 9:12 AM on November 26, 2017

The movie was gorgeous, and highlights the oft-overlooked beaux arts architecture in Mexico City. I’m sure the — what is it, immigration building? — in the land of the dead is based on the Mexico City post office.
posted by chrchr at 10:03 AM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Wow, that was such a gorgeous, fun, and moving ride. So much to look at, I wish I'd sprung for 3D. And the story was very sweet. Loved seeing the pregnant mom - after so many Disney protagonists losing their moms before the opening credits even roll, it was really refreshing to have a loving mom being a mom, nbd, and the kid still gets to make his hero's journey just fine.

If your theater has reserved seating, show up 20 minutes late and skip the Frozen "short" - it was just a drawn-out garbage dump of unnecessary meh. And I loved Frozen.
posted by Mchelly at 1:27 PM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

This movie was gorgeous and the music fit so well, and I cried through the ending. It's incredibly well done and respectful.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 2:44 PM on November 26, 2017

Everyone hated the Frozen short.
posted by k8t at 4:07 PM on November 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

The Frozen short was so boring! Wtf!

What a beautiful movie. I saw someone online talking about how it's about rejecting your dreams, but I don't think that's right. I think it's about synthesizing all parts of yourself. I felt for the ancestor who had to give up her love of music to care for her child. She wasn't right, but she wasn't wrong, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:22 PM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Frozen short took two properties I like (Pixar shorts, and Frozen) and mixed them into an awful overlong amalgam. Ugh. Definitely show up late to skip it, it was insulting.

Coco though was great, though. I do think it was a little simplified ending-wise; real families can’t necessarily be patched up with a crazy adventure.
posted by nat at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just left the movie. Tears, people. Tears. I haven’t been such a mess after a movie since the last Disney Pixar movie.

It was a shame about the Frozen short, I agree. But I appreciated some of the details. Elsa’s dress was a quietly stunning piece of animation, and the knitting sequence was inspired. Also, it is now apparently canon that there are Jews in Arendelle, as well as pagans. I would love either of them to show up in the sequel we’re getting, but somehow I doubt this.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Frozen opener was just unbearable. Shoddy, saccharine writing, and even worse song-writing. How did that thing make it out the door?

And the movie was so good! After the Frozen crap I was starting to worry, but I (gringo, small family) was mopping up tears uncontrollably for the last 20 minutes at least.
posted by zjacreman at 8:45 PM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Saw this on Saturday and loved it! What a gorgeous story, I loved that the movie was named after the great-grandmother, and as someone who in the past few years has become a guitar nerd, I loved watching a movie where they took the time to animate the right fingering on the fretboard. And about 10 minutes in, my six year old son turned to me and said he wanted to learn "grown up" guitar as well. Then after the movie he somehow found the Coco soundtrack on my Shazam app when playing with my phone.
That short though... My wife calls it a medium because short is not the correct title for anything that interminably long. We were also convinced that Idina Menzel had sat this one out, not sure why but it didn't sound like her. And I love, love, love Pixar shorts, so it's especially disheartening to see them put a crappy Frozen short in front of one of Pixar's best since Inside Out. We have that collection of Disney shorts as well, and most of those are terrific (Paper Man, Feast, the sob-inducing Little Match Girl) and by far the worst of that bunch is the Frozen short where a sick Elsa creates sentient snow boogers every time she sneezes.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 6:40 AM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Saw this with my ten-year old on Wednesday afternoon. What a gorgeous movie - visually stunning, charming, funny, brave. And it grapples unflinchingly with the idea of death, a final disappearance when no one alive remembers your name. Wow.

I came here to look for the FanFare thread over the weekend because of a comment in one of the reviews I read, about how this was a good Pixar movie but not one of the first rank Pixar movies. Why not? If I had to go digging for flaws, I'd pick on Dante being overdone in his goofiness - but really, nothing else stands out to me as a big problem. And on the other side of the scale, an honest engagement with death and memory... Could the themes get any more significant?

So... is there a widely accepted list of first-rank Pixar movies? (We love them all, but some more than others I guess, even if they are all part of Boo's dream.) And where would Coco fall on that list? Isn't it too soon to judge?

(And that Frozen short was awful. The character animation felt off, the songs didn't sound good, the storyline was ham-fisted, and the unpardonable sin - it was booooring.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2017

I came here to look for the FanFare thread over the weekend because of a comment in one of the reviews I read, about how this was a good Pixar movie but not one of the first rank Pixar movies. Why not?

I vote racism.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

So it's a day later, and I'm still thinking about it. Visually, there were so many amazing scenes that are still sticking with me. But the music - in a film about music - was pretty forgettable. For me, the two best songs were Un Poco Loco and La Llorona (which in particular was hauntingly perfect in every way) - and they weren't original to the film. Not sure if that's a reasonable criticism or not, since plenty of animated films use popular music, and I really love those tracks. But it feels like a ball was dropped, and the main original song wasn't all that (sorry) memorable.

One other thing I loved though, was watching my 9-year-old laugh out loud when whichever character it was responded to Miguel with, "and yet, here we are." Because he's watched The Incredibles enough times that that will always be an Edna Mode line for him, and I'm pretty sure it was his first time of getting that rush you get when your fandom is rewarded with a call-out to something you love that a lot of people will miss.
posted by Mchelly at 12:55 PM on November 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

Oh, hmm, I've been singing "Remember Me" since we left the theater yesterday, and this is through the constant din of my daughter belting out the Moana soundtrack.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:09 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Index Librorum Prohibitorum, thank you for sharing your experiences and history here! Buena suerte con tu próxima aventura.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:27 AM on November 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

And if you were wondering about what tricks Pixar mastered for this movie, it was all about animating skeletons and cloth accurately.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:29 AM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

i really really liked this movie. even if i couldn't wholly relate because my family just isn't as close-knit, it was still easy to empathize and really feel the emotional heart tugs that Pixar is known for. probably one of my favorite films this year.
posted by numaner at 11:50 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think I can put into words how this beautiful movie made me feel, and just how much it made me feel like I was home. They got so much right. I was really amazed by how naturally the switch between Spanish and English happens. I'm honestly really looking forward to watching it in Spanish with my family in Mexico in a few weeks.

Incidentally, Alanna Ubach, who voices Mama Imelda, is known to us Mexican nerditos because she was assistant Josie in Beakman's World, which is huge in Mexico.
posted by cobain_angel at 2:17 PM on November 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hola fellow nerdito. I had no idea about the Beakman connection, thanks!

I found the pictures of my great grandparents for the altar.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 10:30 PM on November 29, 2017 [8 favorites]


I didn't realize until much later that there was an instance of foreshadowing that tied into the plot twist that is also in all the previews... So subtle that it didn't give anything away. The plot twist was incredible, I thought.


It's when the boy was walking like a skeleton, and he says "I'm walking like you," and his friend says "I dont walk like that." The number of times I've heard that about me and my... you know who... by others is quite high, with often that exact response.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:27 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

And if you were wondering about what tricks Pixar mastered for this movie, it was all about animating skeletons and cloth accurately.

There were also a lot of scenes with a ton of light sources. The graveyard, the leaves, the city of the dead... it was amazing designed and so warmly rendered.
posted by GuyZero at 5:13 PM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I thought the look of the spirit guides was inspired by Huichol art
posted by chrchr at 7:26 PM on December 1, 2017

Chrchr, they were explicitly alebrijes.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 2:15 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thank you for the correction. I am delighted to learn about alebrijes. It seems to be the case that the Huichol bead art sculptures like this(colored with thousands of tiny beads instead of with paint) are representations of alebrijes. Is that so?
posted by chrchr at 3:40 PM on December 2, 2017

Oh, and they weren't even subtle about the pizza truck in this one!
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:35 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Saw it today, no Frozen short.

It's like they took the first five minutes of "Up!" and said, "So this is the most tear-jerking moment in animation? We can do better. Game on."

Difficulty - tears of unalloyed joy and the feeling you get when hope is rewarded, rather than sorrow and grief. My 8yo girl started bawling as soon as Coco started to sing with Miguel, and didn't stop until the credits rolled. I passed off a few sobs as a cough. This movie packs a powerful punch, and plumbs emotional depths we're just not used to.

As a warning, unlike most Pixar films, there is a goofy sidekick animal. It'd be more in place in a Disney film than a Pixar joint, but Dante is remarkably entertaining all the same. (Yes, heavy-handed, and if they wanted to be more subtle, should have named him Virgil. The sight of him with the family's other spirit guide in the living world set off another paroxysm of weeping, again, with surpise and delight and not grief. Of course they'd be close friends!)

It's not perfect, it had a very slooooooow start that should have been edited to around half as long as it was, but once Miguel was on the other side of the bridge, the pacing problems ironed themselves out. The ending was too neatly tied up as well - senility isn't cured with a song, and her journal was a bit too much of a deus-ex-machina for my taste. The fight scenes with the uncles were downright dumb, and out of place.

There will be comparisons to the Book Of Life, and to be honest, I preferred the art design and casting of that film over this one, but the music, plot, theme and screenwriting in general was much better in Coco.

Overall? Excellent and bring a box of tissues with you, you're gonna need it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:40 PM on December 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I didn't expect to cry that hard. Hit buttons I didn't know I had. I am usually strongly resistant to 'family' movies because they just make me feel worse about my own situation - but the emotional depth here really worked. I don't think having a good family of origin background is really a prerequisite to enjoying the story, but be prepared for lots of feelings. #RepresentationMatters
posted by Space Kitty at 10:40 AM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Music therapy for dementia is a real thing.
posted by aniola at 10:15 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Just saw this (released yesterday in Oz) and although my own family of origin stories are awkward at best, it still resonated with me. Maybe just because of Imelda saying that she won’t forgive Hector, but she would help him to be remembered. I tend to agree with her that although some people definitely deserve to be forgotten or ignored by their family, it’s too harsh a punishment for standard douchebaggery.

My husband comes from a happy family and he cried a few times. I loved Dante and laughed out loud at the cousin staring at the shoe in the ceiling while everyone else is having an important conversation. The whole movie was beautiful and I’m so glad Latinx feel that Pixar did a good job at representation here. I was also pleased to see a kids’ movie that balances the usual “be yourself” message with “don’t forget who cares for you while you’re out chasing your dreams”.
posted by harriet vane at 12:05 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Finally saw Coco this weekend and I liked it a lot. I didn't expect to, mostly because I hated Book of Life so much. The only things Coco and Book of Life had in common were Day of the Dead and being animated.

I actually hate watching movies about large, loving families because that is so far from my experience, and I resent it.

I have a lot of this, too. This movie's family's problems were all fixable and in the back of my head I was thinking but what about the inevitable family abusive drunk or kiddie fiddler or... or... or...

And then I decided that those family members got forgotten immediately though sheer will power, which is why they don't show up, and no one puts their pictures up on the offrenda.

There is no canon that supports that, I don't think, but it works for me.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:06 PM on February 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Coco was finally released in Norway, and I took the kids to see it. I found it very moving, and am really happy that it's authentic in a more than skin-deep way.

The localisation work was also excellent. The kid that voiced Miguel had really worked on his Spanish words and expressions. At least it seemed so to my untrained ears. One thing that might be a first was that all text that was present in the film itself was translated and rendered especially for the Norwegian market. Such things are usually subtitled.
posted by Harald74 at 12:31 AM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

her journal was a bit too much of a deus-ex-machina for my taste

Is this how they avoided the bad ending where Héctor's daughter wouldn't see him in the afterlife because when she died, no one would remember him, and so he would disappear that same moment? I wasn't sure how they got around that. I was girding myself for a much more heart-wrenching ending.

This movie felt like it was missing a complication, like it never quite reaches the heights it could get to. But it's so simple and pure, beyond the agonizing over Héctor and Coco.. It's like a shot of goodness to the arm.
posted by fleacircus at 5:58 AM on August 23, 2018

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