I constantly seek the stories of my family’s history. Every time I’m with my elders, I beg them to tell me about what their lives were like, and last Christmas, I asked for an Ancestry DNA kit. Perhaps my fascination with heritage coupled with my deep love for family is what led me to love Coco so much, but even if ancestral digging isn’t your cup of tea, this film is still one of Pixar’s best.
Coco follows Miguel, a 12-year-old boy who wishes to be a musician. Unfortunately, his shoe making family have forbidden music due to the relational destruction it caused farther back in his lineage. Miguel must practice playing the guitar, which he made himself, in secret, and he learns by watching old films of his deceased hero, Ernesto de la Cruz. When Miguel wants to compete in a talent show but doesn’t have a guitar because his angry abuelita destroyed it, he decides to take Ernesto’s guitar from the singer’s resting place, and he ends up in the Land of the Dead. There, he meets his ancestors and goes on a quest to find Ernesto, who he believes is his great-great grandfather, with the help of a skeleton named Hector. Ernesto is the only one who can give Miguel a blessing to not only go home, but to play music, as his great-great grandmother Imelda’s blessing to return home included a condition to never play music again.
Obviously, music is central to the plot, and the melodies of Mexico are vibrant and heartfelt in this film, with twanging, foot-tapping guitar and blaring trumpets. “Un Poco Loco” is fun and upbeat, “La Llorona,” which is sung completely in Spanish, is gorgeous, and when “Remember Me” was sung by Miguel to Coco, I wept. Pixar truly did the cultural music of Mexico justice.
The Land of the Dead is an absolutely stunning environment, with stacked buildings and millions of twinkling lights and glowing alebrijes, or spirit guides. There’s a bridge of petals that connects the Land of the Dead to the living world, and a skeleton can only cross it if their photo is on someone’s ofrenda, which is an offering display to the dead from the living. I thought the way the creative team spun the ofrenda and crossing over to the living world was very clever– the skeletons had their own kind of TSA, who would scan their faces to see if they were on an ofrenda before allowing them to cross the bridge. Despite how beautiful the Land of the Dead is, I would love the film just as much if it took place entirely in Miguel’s town. The quaint houses and open square made of cobblestone are so charming, and I truly felt that I was in Mexico.
I also felt that I was actually with Miguel’s family, sitting in on their conversations and watching them craft shoes. The portrayal of the Mexican family’s close-knit bond is one of my absolute favorite parts of the film. The way Miguel’s abuelita struggles to keep him in line with her feisty attitude but also deep concern is incredibly believable, especially when she smacks a mariachi around with her sandal after he gives Miguel a guitar. Even short lived moments, like Miguel’s cousins teasing him about being in the plaza and wanting to perform in the talent show, perfectly reflect the mixed dynamics of a family and how, though loved ones may have the occasional squabble, love persists and understanding can be reached.
The twist of Ernesto murdering Hector so he could achieve success is a level of darkness that I can’t remember seeing in another Pixar film. While I thought it was interesting in that regard, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a bit similar to the twist with Hans in Frozen. Both Ernesto and Hans are the supposed “good guys” who are going to fix everything, but they turn out to be evil. However, I didn’t expect the second twist of Hector actually being Miguel’s great-great grandfather, and that saved the slightly predictable twist with Ernesto.
As I said earlier, I cried like a baby when Miguel sang “Remember Me” to Coco, and I believe that scene is the most heartbreaking but beautiful moment ever to grace a Pixar film. It perfectly illustrates the power of family and music, of memories and love. Newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, who voiced Miguel, yanked at my heartstrings as he sang through tears, and his performance as a whole in this film was superb. I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.
Coco is a must-see for people of all ages due to its masterful storytelling, beautiful animation, heartfelt message, and accurate depiction of Mexican culture. This film is simply a masterpiece, and it leaves viewers wanting to hug everyone in their family as soon as they leave the theater.
What did you think of Coco?
Edited by: MJ Edwards
Check out Chelsea’s Review!