When walking in to see Disney Pixar’s COCO, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew about Dia de los Muertos, but had never celebrated it myself. Imagine my surprise when I walked out of the theater wiping tears from my eyes and immediately called my parents!
Disney Pixar’s COCO celebrates la familia. This film is tailor-made for the whole family to watch, with something for everyone. It’s a multi-generational feast for the eyes, with an earworm that will have you singing long past The End. My tip: bring tissues. You’re gonna need them. No matter what your background or culture is, you can’t help but be moved by Coco.
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
The plot seems pretty simple and predictable at first. Boy gets lost, boy needs blessing from his family to get back, family sets conditions the boy can’t agree to so he sets off to find a different member of his family. However, it’s the journey that counts. This journey takes on twists and turns that are unexpectedly emotional.
As with most Pixar films, this movie presents a beautiful world. I thought I would be put off by the skeletons in the Land of the Dead, but they are designed in such a way to give the characters personality. They are colorful, not frightening, with facepaint mimicking Dia de los Muertos Skull designs. The Land of the Dead characters have eyeballs in the middle of their eye sockets, which is comforting. Without those you wouldn’t be able to have proper character expression.
Beware, there are some dark themes in this movie. Death is one of them, and can be an uncomfortable subject for many. It’s something the American culture, in general, fears. Mexican culture, however, celebrates death, their ancestors and their stories with Dia de los Muertos. COCO takes that cultural celebration and turns it into a life lesson that all of us can take away. The stories of your ancestors are precious. Remember them.
I always like to touch on music in my reviews, and Disney Pixar’s COCO has an incredible soundtrack. It makes you want to dance, it makes you want to cry. Michael Giacchino has composed another winner, steeped in mariachi sound. During the credits, I was surprised to see the composer was Michael Giacchino as I thought it may have been someone with a Latin American music background. I recommend the soundtrack to film music lovers everywhere.
Not only is the soundtrack good, but the songs within the movie will have you humming for the next week. “Remember Me” is particularly moving. 13-year-old Anthony Gonzalez (who was 10 during the recording) has the vocal emotional range of someone twice his age. Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal lend their substantial voices as well. Here is a little preview:
COCO debuts on Thanksgiving Day, 11/22/17, and is the PERFECT film to watch right before a Thanksgiving dinner with your family. I know I’m thinking of my ancestors when walking out of COCO. My grandmother, the seamstress; my great grandfather, a sheep farmer in Austria; what I would give to visit and learn from ancestors I’ve never met. My advice: watch the film, digest the message, then listen to the stories your family tells around the table. Give thanks for another marvelous Pixar film.