Animated Movies, Disney, Pixar, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘Coco’

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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.

Spoiler alert!

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!

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About Hannah Ortega

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Hannah found Star Wars, Disney, and Marvel, and a fangirl force was awakened inside her. Hannah’s favorite animated movies are Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and Aladdin. Movies such as these inspire her writing, which is her biggest passion. Hannah is an aspiring author and journalist, as well as a Christian, a horseback rider, and a cross country runner.
  • YESYESYESSSSS!!!! This movie really speaks to me personally having lost my own grandmother this year and I still get upset everytime I’m in a family event or just thinking about her. And I cried so hard at the end, not just for the moment but just how strong that parallel was with Coco remembering her father, but also a year later and her passing. But even despite that strong connection, the movie was so much fun beginning to end and I just couldn’t get enough of everything!! And that dark twist, it just shocked me SO MUCH!! Not just that Ernesto was the villain, but that he just did that crazy dark act! IT WAS INSANE TO SEE IN A KIDS FILM!! But so loved that it just took risks like that! This is my new favorite Pixar film for sure, it just spoke to me from a personal level and was still entertaining throughout!! :”””DDDDD

    • I lost my grandmother last year, and I had a similiar reaction when I finally saw Moana. I cried so much but also felt healed.

      • Manuel Orozco

        I thought Moana was better

  • Marielle

    I’m the opposite. To me it was predictable from the start that Hector was going to be Miguel’s great-great-grandfather, and I was like “this is dumb”, BUT I didn’t see Ernesto being a villain coming, so that and the murder were a surprise to me. I thought Miguel was going to meet Ernesto and Ernesto was going to be like “sorry kid but we’re not related” and be nice.

    • Yeah. That murder was an absolute shock to me.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I didn’t expect Hector to be the actual great grandfather at all. While we are at it, I saw the bittersweet ending coming but not 100%.

  • <[| MG |]>

    || It wouldn’t have been much big of a deal if the film made one want to hug a member of her/his family,but the fact that it made me wanting to hug literally any person in and out of the movie theater,is really,quite something.

    || Pixar’s boldest in a very,very,very,very,very long LOOOONG time,which is a good thing actually considering the fact that now there’s really no point in losing faith in Pixar completely because of their lesser works and keep expecting every film of theirs to be particularly original,if that’s how they’re going to make up for them.

    Actually,Inside Out didn’t quite strike a chord with me,immediately,of course,and Coco ended up being far more enjoyable,as well exhilirating in that respect,as a movie-theater experience.

    Mmm,Inside Out,that…

    Very long time.

    || It’s really hard for me to come up with a Pixar film which takes its time and immerses itself into its feel and mood completely,which is actually the reason why the dramatic and fast-paced segments are that effective.When Miguel watches a film in his attic,while playing a guitar,there’s no concern about what course the story is going to take.Plus,the quietness,the delicacy,intimacy,Cococy,Pixaricy…
    What a JOY seeing that in MAINSTREAM CINEMA ( ! )
    Few films have left me this happy.
    Couldn’t wipe my smile off my face the whoooole day.

    Which resulted in me being unbearably and increasingly hyperactive.

    In short – nuts,by the

    – E N D –

    …of the day…
    …quite naturally…
    …burned out…so,so,so…as expected…awfully indescribable tiredness…

    Before…I feel…lll…elt……sleeppp…pp…eep…eepin…ing…innn…

    – E N D –

    STILL not a fan of the animation style though,and if not for that I could’ve easily AND COMPLETELY lost it.

    I’m good actually…thankkks…sssphh…


  • Cried nearly 4 times watching this. I wouldn’t put
    Coco in the same league as Inside Out or all the
    Toy Story films, but this movie was easily Pixar’s
    best since Inside Out. While there were a couple
    pacing issues and the characters were not as
    memorable as other Pixar movies, the story was
    amazing. It’s full of twists, it’s deep, a bit darker
    than usual, and original. Also, the animation was
    spectacular. The best I’ve seen from them. In the
    end, its their best film since Inside Out and one of
    Pixar’s better movies.

    • Manuel Orozco

      Coco felt more in the league with 2 than with the rest of the Toy Story trilogy. Since Good Dinosaur, Pixar got better at keeping the tone consistent. And I have to disagree Cars 3 was better.

  • Manuel Orozco

    Coco was a rare package of an animated feature. Colorful animation, poignant story, decent musical narrative, standout portrayal of a specific culture and whimsical humor. I was even less shocked about Earnesto being the surprise antagonist than I was with Hans in Frozen. Mainly because I didn’t know what to expect in terms of antagonism and Earnesto had no tragic circumstances of his true nature. The teaser gave me and maybe some of us here that he and Miguel would develop a character dynamic similar to Remy & Linguini’s father in Ratatouille. But Hector being Coco’s actual father was forgiving. My dad (Who’s also of Mexican ancestry) got tears in his eyes when Miguel sang for Coco. I agree that this movie would have been better if we spent more time in Miguel’s hometown as well as the title character being given more screentime. This past year, Pixar treated us to two movies with a combination hard to find in today’s cinematic world. What made that possible was the studio’s trademark use of color, emotional sophistication and genuine fun. 4/5 stars

  • Juuchan17

    I’m not ashamed to say that the last 30 minutes of this film had me in tears at least a few times… 2 of them during different renditions of “Remember Me” (Miguel’s to Coco was when I LOST IT) and happier tears during the epilogue ending.

    This movie was a powerful feels gut-punch for different things – a strong moral about love & family, the power & emotion of music, and maybe even a bit of how destructive jealousy can be when it comes to… anything (seriously, the fact that Pixar had an on-screen MURDER in a kids/family movie just SHOCKS me… but I LOVE THE EDGINESS.).

    Also, the animation was GORGEOUS and imaginatively creative. The rules of how the Land of the Dead work make a lot of sense without ruining or downplaying the actual culture of the Day of the Dead (like “The Book of Life” sorta did, which I was sorta felt “Coco” was going to be similar to based on the teaser trailers… but it was nowhere CLOSE, save for the holiday focus). And I seriously should have known the twist was coming, but I didn’t expect it until it was too late.

    Overall, THIS MOVIE. It is a gem that families of any nationality should see at one point. This definitely proves mainstream animation isn’t just for children, as I’m sure adults like myself can totally relate to something here and will probably have a tear shed at one point (if they say they didn’t cry, they’re LYING).

  • Amber Dvorak

    I’m sorry I didn’t leave a comment on this sooner – this is a lovely review, Hannah! It definitely does the beauty of the film justice. I too really liked the worldbuilding at play here, even moreso since it’s based on real cultural traditions and beliefs. Making the gates to The Land of the Dead operate like an airport TSA was ingenious and well-executed. The characters are real and believable, and no doubt will make viewers think of members of their own families. I agree with your statement that Miguel singing “Remember Me” to Coco may be the most emotional, heartbreaking scene in the Pixar canon, and that is definitely saying something. (I’m also a sucker for the very end of Toy Story 3.) Nicely written!