I have finally learned my lesson. When I saw the first trailers and descriptions for Coco, I finally thought that there was a Pixar film being made (that didn’t have Cars in the title) that I was not interested in. But as each trailer and photo was released, I started to come around, and by the time I sat down to watch this one, I could not wait. And boy, what a journey this film is.
Featuring some of the best animation I have ever seen, Coco is by far the most fun I have had in theaters this year — not to mention the most emotional. The last time I cried this much in a film was Toy Story 3. This is such a deeply emotional and personal story, and one of Pixar’s best. One of my favorite things about the people they have working on these films is that they take these tough, challenging situations and break them down into simple stories anyone of any age can grasp. That is not an easy task whatsoever, especially for a film mostly about loss.
The plot is fairly simple, and the twist is pretty easy to see coming. After accidentally traveling to the Land of the Dead, young Miguel must get his deceased families blessing to return to the land of the living. While they give it, they forbid music in their family, so he searches out famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz with the help of the hapless Hector. Ernesto may be related to him and the reason for the families banishment of music after he walked out on them to become the most legendary musician in all of Mexico.
While it plays out exactly how you would expect, the journey to that destination is what you go to the movies for. From the beginning all the way until the end credits, this entire film is a work of art. Visually, there is no contest — it is the prettiest film of the year. All of the artists who worked on Coco at Pixar should stand up and take a bow. They really made a vibrant and colorful film that fits in perfectly with the setting.
Culturally, this has to be one of the most respectful films ever made. Every effort is made to present this important subject as it should be. There are no insensitive jokes I can recall, and I left with a much deeper understanding of what the Day of the Dead means to Mexican culture than I did when I walked in.
They even paid special attention to making sure they hired a Latinx voice cast, and they are all perfect. Benjamin Bratt is unrecognizable as Ernesto. My god, he was born to play a role like this — give this man a musical! Anthony Gonzalez does a phenomenal job as Miguel, and he and Gael García Bernal play so well off each other. Their connection becomes so deep the second they meet on screen that you never want them to cut away.
But where the film touches your heart is with the music. The main song ‘Remember Me’ is a shoe-in to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. I am calling it now. In every form, it is the best song from an animated film since ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’. The real showstopper for me, though, was ‘Un Poco Loco’ sung by Gonzalez and Bernal. It is Miguel’s first time singing in front of anyone, and by the time he does, you are so invested in his character that you feel his jubilation to finally be doing what he knows he was born to do in his bones.
I can’t sing this movie’s praises enough. Take everyone you know to see this. With its strong story focusing on family vales and tradition, we could all find something to take away from this one.
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