Pixar has been a touchstone for our family literally for decades. I took my oldest and his friends to see the original Toy Story back in 1995, and also brought my daughter, who was almost three and had never been out to a theater. I figured that if she got scared or bored, I’d take her out in the lobby; not a big deal if I missed part of a kids’ cartoon. Actually, she was enthralled, and so was I. Not so much by the animation, but the acting and the dialog and the story. And the heart. I don’t know what alchemy made me care so much about the friendship between two animated toys, but I did.
For years Pixar could do no wrong in our eyes: Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles. A slight dip with Cars, but then they recovered and got even better: Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. It was a run like nothing I recall except the early films of Woody Allen. And then they hit the wall: uninspired sequels, marginal ideas, films adults could barely sit through. Inside Out was the only thing you could call a classic Pixar film this entire decade. So when my kids and I went to see Coco last weekend, I had no high expectations.
In many ways Coco is a departure for Pixar. It’s set in Mexico during Día de Muertos: an unfamiliar theme in an unfamiliar setting, and a perfect opportunity for the specter of cultural insensitivity or appropriation. To address that, the writers researched the subject thoroughly (traveling to Mexico several times), and Pixar put together an all-Latino cast. It opened in Mexico first and became the most successful movie of all time there. So, from all indications they got things right.
And the film is wonderful. Again, not so much the animation (though that’s first-rate), but the acting, and the dialog, and the story. And the heart. I actually got teary-eyed at the ending. I thought I’d hidden that, but my son asked me, and I had to admit it. And then it turned out he’d asked because he’d teared up too. I don’t know what magic made us care so much about …
No, that would be telling. Anyway, best Pixar film in years. Go see it.
So, what have you been watching?