Coco Review (2017): A Spirited Día De Los Muertos

Coco Review (2017): A Spirited Día De Los Muertos
courtesy of Disney and Pixar Animation

Coco is a vibrant, adventurous, cultural extravaganza about the Día De Los Muertos! This was a story that I enjoyed and further confirms why this holiday is an important part of culture and tradition. I learned a few things along the way also. This film is produced by Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.

The story begins when a 12-year-old boy named Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of being a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benajmin Bratt). Miguel’s family has made shoes for over 4 generations. But his great, great grandfather was a musician and left his wife Imelda (Alanna Ubach) to make music. Their daughter Coco, Miguel's great grandmother (Ana Ofelia), tried to keep his memory alive. During the celebration of the Day of the Dead, Abuelita, Miguel’s grandmother (Renée Victor), shows him the pictures of their ancestors with his great, great grandfather’s face missing. Abuelita decides it is time for Miguel to enter the family business of shoe making and to never think about making music because of the family ban on music. Miguel believes he is the descendant of musician and film celebrity Ernesto De la Cruz, because his great, great grandfather had the same guitar.

Miguel tells his family that he wants to be a musician and desires to try out for a special contest on that very night. They also discover his secret hiding place in the attic after Miguel shares of his plan to enter the music contest. Abuelita becomes outraged and smashes the guitar that Miguel has been hiding along with other memorabilia of De La Cruz. He runs away and tries to find a guitar he can play for the contest. While attempting to steal the guitar of de la Cruz from his mausoleum, Miguel is transported into the afterlife along with a friendly dog, named Dante (spirit guide). He meets his deceased family and Mama Imelda, who is the only one unable to cross over to the other side (the bridge to visit the living), because Miguel has removed the photograph from Abuelita’s ofrenda (alter). He must get one of the blessing of his ancestors, the Riveras, by sunrise or he will remain in the afterlife forever.

Mama Imelda gives Miguel permission to return to the living, but under the condition; that he never play music again. He violates these terms and immediately  returns back to the afterlife. He then runs away from them to find his great, great grandfather, who has been banished from the family.

courtesy of Disney and Pixar Animation

courtesy of Disney and Pixar Animation

 

 

 

 

 

 

On his journey, Miguel befriends a musician and old friend of de la Cruz named Hector (Gael García Bernal). Miguel makes a deal with him to give his photo to Hector’s living daughter in exchange for an invitation to meet de la Cruz. Hector is trying to return home before his daughter forgets him. Hector explains that if the living remembers the dead and display the picture on Dia de Los Muertos, people can remain alive in the afterlife. If no one remembers, then the souls cease to exist. This is demonstrated when Hector's friend, Chicharrón (Edward Olmos) dies in the Land of the Dead.

Miguel does indeed find his great, great, grandfather and realizes his dream as a musician. He learns some valuable lessons along the way and develops strength and courage. I see this journey as a type of initiation for Miguel, from a 12-year-old boy to a manhood.

This is a touching tale of Día de Muertos . Disney and Pixar get this right! I saw this in 3D, which was a treat. Miguel thinks that he must run away from his family to find the truth. He discovers that family really is most important in addition to living his dream and finds that his idol, De la Cruz is not the man that he has imagined him to be.

This film gave me a greater appreciation for Latino culture and their obligation of protecting family, remembering loved ones, and preserving traditions. I believe Miguel was courageous in his attempts to find his dreams. Sometimes family may not agree with our decisions. Usually, they want the best for us. But sometimes they don’t know what’s best for us and stifle our dreams. It is only when we can break free of these reigns and make our own path. I believe there is a little bit of Miguel in all of us. Most of us want our family and friends to accept our dreams, however, this may not always come to fruition like in Miguel's case. This is a story that is full of courage, honor, perseverance, hope, and dreams.

Coco (2017) is unlike that of The Book of Life (2014-20th Century Fox), because it is told from a young boy’s perspective instead of two lovers trying to fulfill a dream. This film is directed by Lee Unkrich, screenplay by Adrian Molina, Matthew Aldrich, produced by Darla K. Anderson. Overall, I would give Coco 3 and a 1/2 out of 4. Mucho gusto!

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