Coco is another Pixar masterstroke that stalls a bit in the middle, but comes back for one hell of a third act.
Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina (co-director)
Summary: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.
When Pixar decides that they want to tackle a subject, they tackle it without flinching. That becomes obvious within the first few minutes of Coco when we find out that a father abandoning his family is the cause for why Miguel's (Anthony Gonzalez) family hates music. From there, we get a story that walks the line between being the kind of fun family affair we expect from Pixar and getting dark enough that Laika would glance over and wonder what was going on.
Coco was always going to be a different kind of Pixar movie since it is, at its core, about death, death, and forgetting people. It's about following your dreams and realizing that sometimes that is selfish. You might love something, it could be your passion, but that doesn't mean there isn't sacrifice involved when it comes the people around you supporting it. As soon as Miguel gets to the Land of the Dead, the movie does a great job of establishing the rules of the world and what our timeline is. We know what the stakes are and we know what everyone is aiming to accomplish.
Then the movie sort of slows down in the second act, and it almost seems like it could fall apart. It's not bad, but it starts to meander around a bit. It's the sort of thing that most movies can't bounce back from and, for a little while, it looks like Coco won't either. Then the third act hits and everything changes.
This is one of the best third acts to come out of an animated movie in years. It's moving, it's heartbreaking, it's heartwarming, and manages to bring the audience to tears in multiple places. There is a moment at the end of this movie that rivals the opening scene in Up as far as emotional impact goes, and it's stunning.
There are a bunch of reasons why this movie works, but that killer third act is absolutely one of them. The world feels real and intricate, and the movie takes the time to lay out what the customs are in a way that doesn't feel insulting toward the layman. The cast does a fantastic job, and the music is all extremely well done.
Coco is another home run for Pixar and shows that they are at their best (usually) when creating new properties. The love and care put into learning about Mexican culture is beautiful, and while that middle is a little weird, it comes back even stronger than ever. It's absolutely worth a look — but bring tissues.