- I'm not sure this is the same type of Crazy Train Ozzy was singing about.
You can be around 35 minutes late to see "Coco" if you want. No need to rush through the concessions line or have the grandparents hurry up and get out of the car, because there's a secret waiting for you once you get into the theater: Every Pixar movie has a short animated film that precedes the feature, such as the gorgeous "Lava" before "Inside Out" or "The Blue Umbrella" before "Monsters University."
"Coco" follows this tradition in the most excruciating way possible by showing an endless, 20-minute-long "short" (featuring FOUR SONGS) about Olaf from "Frozen" trying to help Elsa and Anna find their own Christmas tradition. This is the first Pixar film that has a Disney short before it, instead of one crafted by the thoughtful and emotionally astute folks at Pixar...and you'll likely feel the difference intensely.
A Pixar short usually has a similar thematic through-line as the film it's preceding, so it prepares the audience emotionally for what's coming. It tonally fits the vibe, in other words. Having "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" before "Coco" is like telling a fart joke at the opera. After 15 minutes of trailers and 20 minutes of a cartoon aimed at much younger children, it's difficult to let the charms of Pixar's latest fully sink in. It also feels somewhat offensive and cowardly that Disney would hedge their bets by tossing in the whitest possible story before their first feature set entirely in Mexico, about Mexican culture and featuring a cast that's almost entirely Latino voices.
For the first 30 minutes of "Coco," I was struggling to care about what was happening. The animation is gorgeous and the story of a young boy who wants to be a musician getting trapped in the Land of the Dead during Dia de Muertos is solid, but it was leaving me cold emotionally. The Land of the Dead is so vibrantly animated with hundreds of colors sharing space in ways I've never seen, that it's easy to get swept along in the adventure even without the connection.
I should know not to underestimate Pixar though, because when the true story of the film takes shape toward the end of the second act, I found myself in love with the characters and the complicated lessons this wonderful movie was trying to impart. "Coco" succeeds in spite of Disney and will make your heart feel like it's blooming.
"Coco" is a cartoon about death. It's also about how different cultures deal with loss and how no one is really gone as long as we remember them. That's such a cliché, but in Pixar's hands it almost becomes a profound examination of a simple idea. "Coco" wants its audience to view death as another step along an adventure instead of something to fear, and that the better we are to each other in life the more we will be remembered once we pass. Even Olaf can't screw that up.
Dir. Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Sisters Movie House, Redmond Cinema