I’m normally busy watching horror films and I don’t habitually watch a lot of Pixar movies, but out of curiosity I decided to watch Disney’s COCO and I’m so glad I did. Actually they had me at Day of the Dead and Gael García Bernal, because I’m a big fan of his Spanish films (and I think skeletons are divine). I think the amount of Latinx representation in this movie is wonderful and the film is a beautiful love letter to the people of Mexico and their culture.
The film tells the story of a little boy named Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, who loves music and wants to become a musician. Unfortunately his entire family has shunned music for decades because his great-great-grandfather left his wife and daughter Coco to be a musician. Miguel now lives with 99-year-old Coco and their family. The movie takes place on the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos), which is when people put out photos of their deceased loved ones along with food, flowers, and candles. Day of the Dead is the only day that lost family members can cross over from the land of the dead and visit their relatives. Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina and Directors of Photography Matt Aspbury (camera) and Danielle Feinberg (lighting) combine vibrant colors and stunning cinematography to bring the story to life and make COCO a mesmerizing film to watch.
I became easily absorbed in the story as Miguel finds himself on an accidental journey through the underworld to find his hero, the late musician Ernesto de la Cruz, who is voiced by Benjamin Bratt. Along the way Miguel meets several of his deceased relatives, in Day of the Dead style skeleton form, and affable Hector, voiced by Gael García Bernal, who tells him that he knows Ernesto and can take him to him. The spellbinding animation and fantastical visual effects make this a captivating film to watch, even on digital.
COCO is full of memorable music and emotional moments of discovery and heartbreak for Miguel. The key song “Remember Me” is presented in a few very different ways in the film. It is performed by Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Anthony Gonzalez, and Ana Ofelia Murguía (Mamá Coco) and is at one point used as a haunting lullaby and then later in the film in a more nostalgic way. A more ‘pop’ version of the song is featured in the end credits of the film and performed by Natalia LaFourcade and singer/songwriter Miguel.
On his quest to find Ernesto, Miguel learns the devastating, heartwarming truth about his family history. The characters are voiced well and entertaining and witty, and there are several enjoyable comical twists in the story. If COCO doesn’t make your heart swell and bring tears to your eyes, then you have no soul. I think fans of any genre and any age will find this a delightful film to watch. In fact, COCO has inspired me to take breaks from horror and watch more Disney/Pixar movies.
COCO is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.