From the moment the music starts, Pixar is telling its audiences that they are in for something new, something inspiring, and culturally beautiful. That doesn’t even really begin to describe what a wonderful film Coco is, but by the time the end credits are finished, it will be hard not to notice how many tears have already been shed. Pixar’s latest animated film is a profoundly beautiful celebration of culture, family, and music, which is very important at a time when politics have painted the subjects as criminals. Here we see characters of Mexican heritage, and even though the film is animated and the setting is fictional, everything about it feels entirely human. Check out the full review of Coco here below.
Coco starts off with a little narration provided by Miguel (Anthony Gonzales), the film’s protagonist. It is there that we learn about him and his family, and how Miguel’s great-grandfather left them to pursue his dreams. But rather than be a victim, Miguel’s great-grandmama perseveres with a great show of strength by picking up the pieces and starting her own business. At the same time, she raises her daughter on her own, who then extends the family and business to what it is now. However, because Miguel’s great-grandfather was a musician, his family prohibited music from being played. However, music is in Miguel’s soul, and he cannot be stopped from playing. He looks up to his late idol Ernesto Del La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a famed musician who met a tragic end. Circumstances lead Miguel to steal Ernesto’s guitar in order to play at the local Dia De Los Muertos talent show, but what Miguel doesn’t know is that the guitar is a mystical conduit that takes him to the land of the dead.
It is there that he finds his late family that he only remembers through photos that are put on ofrenda (an altar of sorts that honors the memory of a family’s ancestors), and how the dead can only cross over the bridge of marigold petals if a family member leaves a photo on it. However, since there is no photo of Miguel on the ofrenda, the only way he can cross back to the land of the living is if he gets his family’s blessing. Unfortunately, his late family is reluctant to help to return him to pursue his dreams, and his MamÃ¡ Imelda, Miguel’s great-great-grandmother (Alanna Ubach), will only send him back if he agrees never to play music again. So rather than agree to the conditions, he gets help from Hector (Gael GarcÃa Bernal) to find his great-grandfather in hopes that he can receive his blessing to go back home and play music. And it is there that Miguel’s adventure begins to not only find out more about his family, but discover the truth behind their hatred towards music.
Coco is so much more than just a boy achieving his dreams to become a musician despite his family trying to prevent him from hearing it, let alone playing it, at all costs. At its core, it’s about love and honor for the idea of family. It is that emotional lynchpin that Pixar consistently delivers on time and time again. It doesn’t double down on making fantastical ideas more outrageous. Instead, it romanticizes them, giving it exposition and detailed context, by explaining the rules of the world and how it ties in directly to Dia De Los Muertos. Though I can see how people may not agree with that idea, and sometimes there is a sense of racial clashing within the film. But on the upside, it does open the door to a new cultural experience.
And that’s where the film excels. With Coco, it never, not once, not ever, forgets its Mexican roots. There is a sense of Mexican pride that resonates throughout this film, from its all-Latino cast to the fact that some of the songs are sung in Spanish, without any subtitles. It brings a sense of authenticity and admiration for Mexicans. Its use of Dia De Los Muertos allows audiences to see through a different kind of lens. Even in the world of the living and the Land of the Dead, the film looks so beautiful and rich in detail. The land of the living has a bit more tangibility to it considering that it draws inspiration from small-town Mexico, but it is the land of the dead that makes the animated film truly unbelievable. The city of the land of the dead is a metropolis of skeletons and alebrijes (brightly colored spirit animals, some fierce, others not so much). There is a fully functional transportation hub and a department which gives its inhabitants clearance to pass on through to visit their family on the other side. They even have a concert venue where they can see some of their favorite celebrities perform.
Speaking of performance, the music of Coco is energetic and poignant. Bobby and Kristine Lopez, the songwriting duo that gave us the popular tunes from Frozen, gives us “Remember Me,” a song that feels more lullaby than a love song. Though we get a couple of different variations of it, there is one particular take on the song that will surely tug at a few heartstrings.
While Pixar films have delivered on the emotional time and time again, this time they have done something truly special with Coco. The film will surely open audience’s eyes to a world and culture that has been often frowned upon by ignorance. So hopefully, by the end of the movie, Coco would have done much more than just make us weep. It would help us realize that no matter our heritage, we all bonded by our love for our family.