CHARMING. Precious! Of course I cried. This is one of those movies I’d always meant to see, I just kept missing Day of the Deads. But I ended up watching it with a friend last weekend, and found, of course, that Coco is for any time. Coco is for your heart.
It looks unmistakably like Pixar, with the same hyper-cute style of smooth, huge-eyed faces and noodle limbs they’ve been working in since the first Toy Story movie—somehow still even rendered here in skeleton form. But the rest of the art direction on this one has the most distinct visual atmosphere I’ve seen from the studio since Brave. Pixar movies are always vividly colored, but this one actually glows, lit by deep orange drifts of magical marigold petals set against a velvety blue-black night. Is it always night in the Land of the Dead? I would believe it instantly if you told me, that whole world seemed so calibrated for the rich shadows & warmth palette of a night market.
And it makes sense, of course, that Coco would have deeper blacks, as this is a story about death. Death cast in a familial, unscary, even comforting way, but still dark! Still macabre! I mean this cute little kid is slowly turning to bones right in front of us. And that is a plus, I love this. Kids like weird dark goth shit and so do I. It’s not like it’s not still sweet as hell, it’s both and that’s why it’s so lovable.
Also, to talk of lovable: Gael García Bernal. Gael García Bernal! Gael García Bernal as an airy limbed, clattering, trickster skeleton scamp with a third act reveal as our tenderly romantic heartbreak hero—a cinematic gift I had not even thought to ask for!
So thank you for that, and thank you for that big chonky majestic flying jaguar who would blow magical fog out of his nose, and that the two aesthetic reference points for the Land of the Dead were wrought iron/The Crystal Palace and LA-ish art deco, and for the mariachi who looked like Mexican Paul F. Tompkins, and the fierce great-great-grandmother’s time-stoppingly beautiful singing voice. She doesn’t actually stop time in the movie, that’s just how I felt about it.
In short, very glad I finally watched this one, even in August.