“Coco”- Movie Review
Dia de Muertos, commonly known as Day of the Dead among English-speakers, is a multi-day holiday celebrated throughout central and southern Mexico. From October 31st to November 2nd, families gather together to celebrate the memory of friends and relatives who’ve passed on. It is believed that on midnight of the 31st, the veil between the real world and the spirit world is lifted, allowing their loved ones to cross over to visit the land of the living. It’s a beautiful tradition, one that’s almost never portrayed in films or television for some reason. But now that Disney’s newest animated feature, Coco, has hit theaters, general audiences have the chance to truly experience what Dia de Muertos is all about.
Set in present-day Mexico, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) has aspirations of being a musician. But there’s a problem- his family has banned music for generations. They have plans for him to enter the family shoe-making business. Eager to follow in the steps of great-great-grandfather, a famous guitar-player named Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Miguel sneaks into de la Cruz’s tomb and strums his magic guitar. Doing so thrusts him into the spirit world, where he teams up with a street dog named Dante and a lively skeleton named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) to return home before he’s stuck there forever.
This film is currently the best grossing movie of all time in Mexico, and for good reason. Coco is a love-letter to not only the Day of the Dead, but to Hispanic heritage as a whole. It’s obvious the filmmakers did their homework. Every frame is beautifully detailed, with bright colors, great character and background designs, and music that’s both catchy and deeply moving. The song “Recuerdame” is destined to become the next “Let It Go” (personally I like it a little more than ‘Let It Go’), and I bet it’ll be nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.
When ever have you seen a Pixar movie that does NOT try to crumple your heart into tiny pieces? We all know that every great Disney-Pixar movie leaves you drowning in a puddle of tears. Coco is no exception. Although I wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably like I imagine most people will at the end of Coco, I did find myself trying to hold back tears. The film’s message is about family, about celebrating the lives of your loved ones who are either living or have passed on. The message is truly profound, and it resonates throughout the film with great verocity. Now that’s both a plus and a con.
While important, it sometimes feels like the message is being pounded against you’re skull, like it’s afraid you’ll forget the moral. But on the flip side, I can argue that’s the film’s way to make sure the message stays with kids. It’s just that I’m positive the characters say the word ‘family’ more than Vin Diesel does in the Fast and the Furious movies. The story does fall into cliché territory near the end. Though to its credit, it does at least try to be creative with them.
These issues are only small features of the film’s biggest issue- telling instead of showing. For instance, there’s a scene toward the third act in which a character has an epiphany. It’s a serious moment, one that’s surprisingly disturbing for a kid’s movie. It’s shown through flashback AND narration, basically spelling it out for the audience. Seeing how this is a movie about the power of music, it would’ve been much more powerful if there was no narration, and the only thing doing the talking was the visuals and the music. At least then the audience would get a chance to experience the moment rather than just see it.
With all that being said, Coco is a great film. It takes you on a fun journey through the spiritual side of Mexican culture, and accompanies you with a set of likable and endearing characters. Some storytelling elements are a bit weak, though the heart of it isn’t. If you get the chance, see take your family to see Coco. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. And I guarantee you’ll at least shed a tear.
P.S. the Frozen short that plays before this is waaaaaaaay too long! Cute, but long!
Cosmic Grade: 4.3 out of 5