Movie Review: Coco (Spoilers!)

Ever since I saw the trailer for PIXAR’s newest film, “Coco”, I knew that I would be watching it at the cinema when it came out. First off, there have only been a very few PIXAR films that I didn’t see on the big screen; and secondly, I wanted to watch “Coco” as the visuals looked breathtaking, and I thought that I might be able to relate to the cultural background of the film, since both Mexico and the Philippines were influenced by the Spanish. By the end of the film, as PIXAR movies usually go for me, I was in tears and I was unexpectedly surprised with where the film went.

“Coco” was directed by Lee Unkrich, with music by Michael Giacchino, with a screenplay by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich, from a story conceptualized by Lee Unkrich, Molina, Aldrich, and Jason Katz.  It starred Gael Garcia Bernal as Hector, Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz, Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel Rivera, Renee Victor as Abuelita Elena, and Alanna Ubach as Mama Imelda, among others.

The film tells the story of a twelve year old boy named Miguel who dreams about becoming a musician like his idol, singer and movie start Ernesto de la Cruz, even though his family has a lifelong ban against music and is a known family of shoemakers. However, on Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), Miguel decides to take matters into his own hands, and steals de la Cruz’s guitar and ending up stuck in the Land of the Dead. There, he must figure out a way to contact his family in order to return before sunrise, or else he would be stuck in the Land of the Dead forever.

This film is, technically speaking, PIXAR’s best. The little Mexican town of Sta. Cecilia was almost photo realistic, the bridge of the Land of the Dead was breathtakingly beautiful, and the world of the Land of the Dead was bursting with richness and color.

The acting was great on all parts, and the comedic timing was also spot on. Gonzalez, who has had some acting experience, shines as Miguel, and is able to not only carry the entire movie and bounce of well with his co-stars, but brings all the emotion and pathos needed to make this story work.

Another thing that I liked was how it did accurately capture Dia de los Muertos and how big family clans are. Also, I loved how I could relate to this family, because family dynamics, and some festivals that we have here in the Philippines do have Spanish roots.

However, over here, instead of Dia de los Muertos being a festival, most families spend November 2 by going to the cemetery with family. Some families hold big reunions and camp out in the cemeteries themselves. However, usually it’s not a time of mourning, but a time of celebrating our loved ones.

With regards to family dynamics, most Filipinos have Titas (Aunts) or Lolas (Grandmothers) who ply you with food during reunions (which can be even bigger in size than the Rivera reunion, especially when the ENTIRE clan is present), and in some cases, one’s destiny or future career can be dictated by your family.

However, what was refreshingly different in this film, aside from the plot twists that through me for a loop, was the fact that Miguel learned that sometimes, your family does have to come above and beyond your dreams.

“Coco” is a heartwarming film that was relatable and surprising; while being breathtakingly stunning. Definitely a must watch if you are a fan of Disney and PIXAR films, and definitely a great movie to take your family to see. Just bring some tissues if you are a crybaby like me.

Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!

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First of all, the visuals and technical feats in “Coco” were just amazing, and I do believe that this is PIXAR’s best yet. Here, they created a surprisingly realistic Mexican town, accurately captured the whole cemetery scene, and created a breathtakingly beautiful Land of the Dead full of life that was more alive than the Land of the Living.

What I admired about this film is the fact that it managed to surprise me with its plot twist, especially when, at a certain point, you think that you already know where the story is heading.

In the Land of the Dead, Miguel decides to run away from his relatives as they want to send him back to the Land of the Living with the condition that he can never be a musician. So, he decides to go and find Ernesto de la Cruz, with the help of a skeleton named Hector, who claims that he knows de la Cruz, as, earlier on, he deduced that de la Cruz was his great-great grandfather- the musician who left his family and the reason why music is banned in the Rivera family. Miguel came to that conclusion as the costume and guitar in the torn picture of the family matriarch, Mama Imelda, and her daughter, Mama Coco, looks exactly like de la Cruz’s. On the way there, Miguel discovers that people can stay alive in the Land of the Dead if they are remembered by a living person, and that they can only cross to the Land of the Living during Dia de los Muertos, if their picture is put up.

Miguel finally meets de la Cruz, only to discover that his idol had actually poisoned Hector, who had written all the songs that de la Cruz became famous for; and had poisoned him while Hector was trying to get home to his family. As Miguel knows his secret, de la Cruz throws both Hector and Miguel into a deep and cavernous well. While there, Hector reveals that he is fading, and had hoped that he would be able to stick around until his daughter, whom he used to sing to, came to the Land of the Dead. And here, we learn that Hector is actually Miguel’s great-great grandfather, and not de la Cruz.

This plot twist really through me for a loop, but, also, if you look at it, Miguel’s ancestor was never spoken of, so Miguel and the audience, based on the guitar and costume, would have assumed that it was de la Cruz.

Afterwards, an awkward family reunion happened, and in the end, they worked together as a family, and let bygones be bygones to rescue Hector’s picture from de la Cruz so that he wouldn’t fade away. Unfortunately, during the action sequence, in which de la Cruz was exposed, Miguel loses the photograph. Along the way, Miguel learns that what is important is family, and was perfectly willing to accept ANY condition so that Hector wouldn’t fade. Imelda and Hector though give him his blessing to go back, with no conditions, even though the picture was gone, as they didn’t want him to be stuck in the Land of the Dead.

Back in the Land of the Living, Miguel rushes to his Mama Coco, and ends up singing Hector’s song to her, which livens her up. She then reveals that she had always kept her father’s photo, and later on, in the next year, Mama Coco is reunited with her parents as they journey to the Land of the Living for another Dia de los Muertos. However, this time around, the Rivera family has fully accepted music back into their lives.

And of course, the reason why this movie is named “Coco” is because Mama Coco is the one that connects Miguel and Hector together. Interestingly, even though she has little screen time, her presence is very much felt in this film.

Around the time that Miguel and Hector were thrown into the well, I started to cry.

I loved the whole action sequence, as it had its funny moments, in particular, with Mama Imelda, who ended up realizing that deep down, she still loved Hector very much.

It’s very rare that a movie will emphasize how family, at times, must take precedence over your dreams, and even though in the end, Miguel did get his dream of being a musician, the mere fact that he was willing to give that up, is something that really hasn’t been explored or emphasized before.

This is something, I think that Filipinos can also relate to because sometimes, we have to put our own personal dreams aside for the sake of the family.

Aside from this, Filipinos can relate to big family reunions, food being plyed onto the younger ones, clan values, and we all have that Lola, Tita or mother who has chased away people using their slipper. Abuelita Elena is definitely a figure that is very much in my culture, as our older female relatives are loving, funny and sometimes can be more terrifying than our older male relatives.

In the end, this is a powerful movie about family, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice for the family. “Coco” delivers this, alongside breathtaking visuals, while celebrating Mexican culture, all at the same time, to create a movie that is heartwarming and will make you cry, just like you did in “Up”.

What did you think about “Coco”? What did you like and not like about it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

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