Thursday, December 7, 2017

A little something for the weekend...

Coco • Movie Review by Jocelyn DeVore •

I was not prepared.

When I watched the trailer for Coco a couple of months ago, I was excited to see that Pixar was releasing a movie filled with culture and vigor. Another culture, possibly similar to mine? Bright colors? Enthusiastic main characters? I thought I was ready. I thought that I would go in, watch a movie, and leave with an empty popcorn container and a desire to learn more about the Mexican culture. Don’t get me wrong, I did leave with those things. But it was so much more than that.

Coco is about a young man named Miguel, who wants to break away from his family’s prosperous shoemaking business and become a musician. He has music running through his veins, despite his family’s distaste for music as a whole. Because of a Day of the Dead mishap, he ends up journeying into the afterlife, which—in this movie—is a thriving, happy place, and less of a frightening space.

The amount of detail put into this movie was breathtaking. From the wax dripping off the candles to the dazzling city lights of the afterlife, the attention to detail was amazing. You could almost reach out and touch the marigold petals—and I didn’t even see the 3D version. The voice acting was phenomenal. Anthony Gonzalez was dazzling as Miguel. Both the songs and his line delivery were superb.

The film is so relatable that it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact message. It touches on the importance of family, supporting those you love, following your dreams, forgiveness, kindness to adorably goofy stray dogs, and the importance of music. That being said, it didn’t feel overwhelming. The story felt natural and compelling.

My only complaint is about the animated short that accompanied the movie, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. While timely, it felt out of place, was easily five times longer than normal a Pixar short, and took away from the whole Coco experience. If it was on its own or if accompanying a Disney princess film, the short would have felt more appropriate.

Coco itself shies away from the darker elements of death, opting for a more optimistic view—but what else would you expect from a Pixar movie? Pixar is no stranger to the concept. Have you seen the beginning of Finding Nemo? Don’t even get me started on the beginning of Up.

While some critics might see the studio’s portrayal of death as compromising, viewers have to remember that this is seen from the eyes of a different culture. Death isn’t always about grim reapers and funerals. Ghosts don’t wear white sheets. In traditional Mexican culture, death doesn’t hold the same significance as it does to its North American neighbors. It’s about remembrance, celebrating the stories that live in our hearts, and the memories of our ancestors.

The Take-Away

What I was expecting was Moana, but what I got was Finding Nemo. What does that mean? Moana was a new experience for me. When I watched it, I was immersed in a vivid story and a new culture. Finding Nemo was the first time I cried in a movie theater. I found myself in tears with a hundred people. Men, women, children: we were all tearing-up at the [spoiler alert] loss of Nemo’s mother and siblings. (Okay, there wasn’t really a need for that spoiler warning.)

Some people might criticize Pixar for having formulaic movies, but I say, “If it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Each of their movies has its own quirks, and Coco is no exception. The characters are vibrant and unforgettable, the stories are timeless, and (while the formula is the same) the journeys are all different.

Coco is typical Pixar. And by “typical”, I mean amazing. And by “amazing”, I mean bring your Kleenex and make sure to have your parents’ phone numbers on speed dial. Trust me. You’re going to want to hug someone—and better your parents than some stranger that you met on the street. That’s just creepy.

Bonus Sappy Story (accompanied with a SPOILER WARNING)

One of the reasons I was able to find Stupefying Stories in the first place was because of a trip that my (then) boyfriend and I made to Florida. We dropped everything to help take care of family. His grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed in-home care. That’s where we came in. We spent time with him, loved him, and watched him thrive at home. It was much-needed therapy for all that was involved. Long story short, since I had quit my job to go down there, I was able to spend my free time reading and writing stories. Watching this movie, I felt like everything had come full circle. Someone with Alzheimer’s led me to find Stupefying Stories. Now, Stupefying Stories led me to a beautiful story centered around Alzheimer’s.

The title character reminded me of our time in Florida. Watching Miguel’s interaction with her brought me back to our time with my (now) husband’s grandfather. The introduction of music into her life mimicked—albeit not as dramatically—the role of music into his grandfather’s life as well. It was hard for him to get up and walk around but he would tap his toes and smile as soon as we put on his favorite tunes. We even danced once.

JOCELYN DEVORE is a writer and storyteller from the Pacific Northwest. She has written for a number of non-fiction online magazines and is a cozy mystery ghostwriter. She is still learning how to properly use a semicolon and frequently breaks the rules for sentence fragments because she finds them punchy, dramatic, and short. Just like her. She also writes, directs, and produces her own Lovecraftian audio drama, Poplar Cove.

When she’s not writing, you can often find her curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee, or watching a scary movie on Netflix. You can also find her online at

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out her short story, "Fulfilling," elsewhere on this site.