For anyone familiar with arts programs, it’s an accepted truism that art can cross boundaries which other types of human interaction can’t; or at least that art can do so more easily. A quick Google search of “art breaking down barriers” yields the following four top results.
Singing in the Rainhas long been my favorite movie musical. A fun story, awesome dancing, catchy music, great gags and jokes, a wonderfully wicked antagonist, and a look at filmmaking by a film.
But this isn’t going to be a standard movie review; hopefully something deeper. I’ve been trying to wrap my head more and more around how story is told. A while back I stumbled on something I don’t think I’ve seen anybody else talk about with regards to this film. The expectation I have as I write this is that you’ve seen Singing in the Rain – indeed that you are well familiar with it. Because I want to look at the way this story was told, not the story itself.
Fun film with really great music and some good family characterizations. It did feel like the filmmakers got a little precious with it and it didn’t have quite the same heart as the original; specifically some of the dialog suffered early on and the banter felt forced to me. It also suffered some expected sequel bloat.
But it absolutely shown in the creative superpowers. Elastigirl + motorcycle = awesome! The new supers had some great moments. The pacing was good throughout and I like the continued developments of all the mains.
Final verdict: another great movie from Pixar and another fresh look at superheros.
Now, a thought that includes some spoilers for both Incredibles films.
I loved what it made me feel even thought I didn’t exactly love how I felt (WARNING: this film will cause feelings, especially if you have experienced familial loss).
I loved the themes, the animation, the music, the characters, and the voice acting.
I loved that it never felt as though the filmmakers were trying to “pander” to anybody or assume the audience was stupid. By that I mean that I, as a non-Mexican who has only limited understanding of what the Day of the Dead represents, never felt like I was being coddled nor that the subject matter was too precious that it couldn’t be shared with “outsiders”. Everything played straight.
But what I think I loved most of all was that this showed that two people/writers/groups/films can have the same story idea (on the surface at least), and yet tell completely different stories.
One of the first things that I learned from Brandon Sanderson via the Writing Excuses podcast was that often, the difference between a good story and bad story lay less in the nature of the idea and more in how that idea is implemented. To paraphrase:
A great idea written by a mediocre author will not be as good as a mediocre idea written by a great author.
The understanding that you don’t have to have the most unique, the most entertaining, the most transformative, or the most artistic “idea” to be successful was liberating.
On the surface, Coco could sound very similar to another animated film from the recent past – Book of Life. Both are about the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead. Both have music as a central theme, and how music relates to the protagonist. Both have the protagonists’ families as being VERY against music and trying to “force” the protagonist into the family business. Both feature visits by the protagonist to the underworld and a need to escape. Both discuss families and forgiveness. Both have prominent participation of Mexican directors, writers, and actors. Both are CGI.
But these movies are as different I think as one could get for having what seem like similar trappings.
And that’s what I love – both Coco and Book of Life are films worth seeing. Both are worth enjoying. And both have place in helping us learn to forgive our families and in teaching us to make room for the rising generations.