On the rating scale of, “How Much Will I Cry at This, More or Less Than Toy Story 3?” Disney and Pixar’s latest, Coco, sits pretty high. Will you bawl hysterically like you’re watching a bunch of plastic playthings accept their own mortality and hold hands as they face the great unknown of death? If that crying is like, a 11+, Coco is maybe an 8. You are going to cry, but not because someone is facing death — actually, the whole movie is death, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.
Coco takes place in two different worlds: Our living world, and the Land of the Dead. It’s Dia de los Muertos, and relatives who have passed on can come back and visit their living family members for one day only. It also happens to be the day our young hero, Miguel, manages to uncover a long-buried family secret.
As Miguel himself explains to us, his great-great grandmother banned the family from all music after her husband walked out on her to pursue his own fame and glory with the guitar. However, even though it’s forbidden, this hasn’t stopped Miguel from loving music anyway. After he accidentally learns the identity of his great-great grandfather, and accidentally steals a guitar to enter a talent show, he’s transported to the Land of the Dead himself. There, he comes face to face with the very same great-great grandmother who forbid all music in the first place.
Now, he has to figure out how to convince his ancestors that he should be allowed to play music, and get their blessing to do so, all before the sun rises — because otherwise, he’ll be trapped in the Land of the Dead forever.
And now, what’s a Pixar movie without a tightly-knit plot that loves to throw twists and turns our way? Getting his ancestor’s blessing is going to be way harder than Miguel could ever imagine, and he’s not exactly helped by a trickster he meets along the way, Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal, having so much fun he deserves his own Pixar Cinematic Universe). Hector is desperate to get back to the Land of the Living, but he can’t. Revealing anything else will give too much of the story away, and just know you’re probably going to need at least five tissues in your pocket at all times.
If the story isn’t enough to get you crying, Coco is absolutely gorgeous. Over the last few years, Pixar has really nailed down what human character should look like (because wow, remember Andy in Toy Story in 1995?), and not only that, they’ve mastered the art of fire. The candles flickering onscreen look more lifelike than anything else, and this little detail sets the ambiance more than anything else.
But back to that crying. The crux of the movie is family — how to love your family, accept your family, and honor them even long after they’re gone. So while Toy Story 3 made you cry reflecting back on your childhood, Coco will have you crying as you reflect on your whole life, and your parents’s life, and your grandparents, and so on. If you don’t leave the movie and immediately call a relative, Pixar has failed.
Bottom line: Waterproof mascara might not even hold through Coco.