By: Amy Kawa
Coco is a departure from the trend Pixar has been following as of late and will continue to pursue in the next two movies scheduled to come out through 2019 – aka the art of the sequels. Coco is a completely original, breath of fresh air that fully puts on display everything Pixar does so well and transports the audience to another world – the extremely “lively” and colorful Land of the Dead.
This review will be mostly spoiler free, so take a read and decide if Coco is worth taking a trip to the theater to go see (spoiler of my own… it is!).
Miguel (voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) is a young boy who dreams of taking the stage and playing music to his heart’s desire, just like his hero, the most famous musician in all of Mexico, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt). Miguel has the talent and certainly the drive to pursue his dream, but there’s just one, small problem… Miguel’s family absolutely forbids any involvement with music. Miguel’s great great grandfather chose music over his family, and Miguel’s abuelita (voiced by Renee Victor) is convinced music is a curse to the family and won’t let Miguel follow in his no-good great great grandfather’s footsteps. Through a series of revelations, Miguel believes his hero, de la Cruz, is in fact his great great grandfather, so he then believes even more deeply that he is destined to play music.
On Dia de los Muertos, in an attempt to seize his moment in the music world, Miguel commits a major Day of the Dead “no-no” and finds himself a member of the Land of the Dead. He conveniently runs into his deceased family members who agree to help him find a way back to the Land of the Living. However, in order to get back, Miguel must receive a blessing from one of his family members, and like his family members at home, the ones in the Land of the Dead also never want him to play music again. The ever-determined Miguel can’t live with those conditions, so he’s off to find Ernesto de la Cruz to receive his blessing to go home and pursue his dream of becoming a musician.
Miguel teams up with a skeleton named Hector (voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal) and the two journey and sing their way through the Land of the Dead to try and get to de la Cruz. Along the way, Hector helps Miguel get his sea legs performing on stage and Miguel helps Hector with the hope that he will ensure that Hector’s legacy lives on in the Land of the Living.
When all hope seems to be lost, will Miguel’s family empathize with his love for music? Will Hector’s legacy live on? Will Miguel seize his moment and make it back home? We’ll let you see it and tell us… remember, it is a Disney movie!
Sidenote: Coco is the name of Miguel’s great grandma… Okay. Proceed!
Coco is truly an other-worldly experience. The movie transports you into a world of colorful characters and places, but above all else, it puts you into this wonderful family who cares so deeply about tradition and each other. In Mexican culture, family is always at the forefront, and it always comes first, as it always should. Coco also reminds you of the power of music and its ability to heal and soothe.
It is clear that Disney did so much work in production of this film to make sure all of the details were correct. Dia de los Muertos is such an institution in Hispanic culture, and Disney did everything in their power to make these aspects of the movie as authentic as possible. They had pre-screenings in Mexico to make sure audiences approved and spoke with consultants throughout the story’s development. All of Disney’s hard work has seemingly paid off, as Coco has been reviewed extremely positively in Mexico, with people identifying with the characters as if they were members of their own families.
The voice talents were exceptional in the movie as well. Anthony Gonzalez is clearly a star as Miguel. He brings a childlike innocence that makes Miguel entirely likable, when he could easily be seen as a brat. He certainly brings the audience to tears more than once in the movie. Gael Garcia Bernal as Hector is another standout. He takes Hector on a journey from a con artist to an incredibly sympathetic character, who you can’t help but root for. Benjamin Bratt also deserves a nod for his role as the famous singer, Ernesto de la Cruz. His deep, smooth voice lends itself perfectly to an equally suave Hispanic music star.
Coco’s soundtrack and score were also exceptional. Pixar movies typically aren’t known for their soundtracks, but with songs like “Un Poco Loco” and “Remember Me,” Coco stands out on its own. Legendary Up and Inside Out composer Michael Giachinno returns to do the film’s score, providing the perfect musical accompaniment for all of the emotional highs and lows Coco offers.
All in all, Coco is a movie this world needs right now. It introduced the audience to a world where you can find your place and accept help from those along your journey; one where you seize your moment and follow your dreams; and above all else one where nothing is more powerful than the love and traditions of a family.
Photo courtesy: imdb.com