Mel Reviews: Disney/Pixar’s Coco
Pixar’s Coco follows familiar themes of the importance of family and chasing your dreams while setting them against a backdrop filled with rich Mexican cultural elements. Our main character, Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) comes from a long line of shoe makers beginning with the fierce matriarch of their family, Mamá Imelda (Alanna Ubach).
Miguel, however, isn’t a shoe maker. In his heart and dreams, he’s a musician like his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). He secretly watches old tapes of de la Cruz, playing along with him on his homemade guitar.
There’s one major problem standing in Miguel’s way: his family hates music, a disapproval that from Mama Imelda. Her husband was musician who left one day to pursue his craft and never returned. After deciding to not let his family’s displeasure hinder his dream, Miguel chooses to enter a competition to prove himself. In order to do that, he needs a real instrument. This begins his accidental journey into the Land of the Dead.
The movie takes place during Dia de los Muertos. On this day the barrier between the Land of the Dead and that of the living opens, allowing the dead to cross over and visit their families. The movie doesn’t neglect Dia de los Muertos details here. Lovingly decorated ofrendas – altars filled with offerings for the dead – are integral to the story by becoming the focal point that draws the dead home.
The bulk of the movie follows Miguel as he’s stranded in the Land of the Dead, searching his way home. The animation of the Land of the Dead is stunning. Vibrant colors pop everywhere from the lush bridges made of marigold petals that lead the dead to their living families to the architectural elements of the city. They took something with the potential to be scary – a place filled with dead people – and made it into a feast for our eyes. Even its skeletal inhabitants are given a warmth combined with unique clothing and decorated skulls that greatly dulls any scare factor. The inclusion of alebrijes, colorful spiritual guide animals, further adds to the texture of the land.
The strength of the movie lies in the connections between the characters – specifically Miguel and his family, both living and dead. Music ends up being the current that runs through the movie, bringing the family together. If the song “Remember Me” doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you have a colder heart than I.
Another aspect that I appreciated about this movie was the crucial role that women play in the overall story. We have Mama Imelda, who not only learned a new profession after her husband left her and her daughter, but also taught it to the rest of her family, allowing them to prosper. Then there’s Miguel’s Abuelita (Renee Victor), fiercely enforcing her grandmother’s rule of no music and keeping her family’s traditions alive. Finally, there’s the titular character, Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), Miguel’s great grandmother. She’s his confidant as well as crucial factor within the third act.
Boasting a cast of Latinx actors including Gael García Bernal, Jaime Camil, Edward James Olmos and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Coco is a gorgeous film with a heartfelt message. It has resonated with audiences worldwide proving once again that not only does representation matter but that diversity sells. For the second week in a row, it’s held the top spot at the box office earning over $100 million domestically and $280 million globally. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend seeing Coco. If you see it after December 8th, you won’t have to worry about watching the Frozen short before the movie.