Summary: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.
Cast and Characters. There are a lot of characters in this film, but I’m not going to go over all of them. Just the two main characters and some of the supporting because of their roles in the film. Just know that all of the characters are bright, colorful and likable!
Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel Rivera. He is a 12-year-old aspiring musician. He feels out-of-place in his family of shoemakers. He doesn’t want to be stuck in this mundane process that his family is stuck in. They have banned music and he doesn’t understand this, at least in a way that keeps him from loving music. Miguel wants to be a musician and he finds ways to protect his love. What I loved about Miguel is that he felt like a kid. He made his mistakes. He acts like a kid. When he decides to steal a guitar in order to play for the talent show, he faces the consequences of his actions… then he gets a second chance… and he steals the guitar again. That’s hilarious and so accurate. He is clever, he’s funny and determined. Miguel knows what he wants and he does what he can to go after it, and even as the story continues and things are discovered, he rolls with it. Anthony Gonzalez was great, he reminded me of Auli’i Cravalho as Moana in how she sat in her character, he did the same thing with Miguel. I really enjoyed his energy for this character. Plus, he has a great singing voice on him.
Gael García Bernal as Hector. He is a charming trickster in the Land of the Dead. When we first meet him, he’s trying to make it through customs (they have a whole system it’s great lol), by pretending to be a celebrity and it’s revealed that he tries to sneak over the bridge every year. So, when he meets Miguel, he enlists his help in order to actually make it over the bridge at some point. Hector is a charming character and a lot is revealed about him that turns him into a tragic character as well. He was probably my favorite character in the movie. At times he seems very selfish, or like he can’t be trusted and there’s more to him that makes him relatable and you can’t help but to feel bad for him. I’ve never seen Gael Garcia Bernal in anything, I saw one but I don’t remember him in it and it’s been so long, but I really liked his voice. He’s very charming and he helps Hector be likable and tragic at the same time. Also, he has a nice singing voice.
Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz. The most famous musician in the history of Mexico. He is also Miguel’s idol, he’s the reason why he wants to be a musician. He even inspires Miguel to build a guitar that looks just like his. He has many fans around the world, but his untimely death (lol it’s hilarious) puts him in the Land of the Dead, but he’s even more beloved there due to his charm and charisma. I definitely can’t give anything away with him, but it all makes sense once you watch the film. I like Benjamin Bratt and his voice is great for this character. The larger than life personality, the charisma, and even the ego, just works. Bratt only sings Remember Me in the film, while Antonio Sol does the singing at other times in the film.
Alanna Ubach as Mama Imelda. She is Miguel’s great-great-grandmother. The ban on music started with her. There is a lovely opening scene in which Miguel tells the story of her life and how her heart was broken. Due to her husband choosing music over her and their child (Coco), she dedicates her life to creating roots for her family. A shoemaking business. Mama Imelda is a businesswoman and she protects her family. Even when Miguel ends up in the Land of the Dead, she does whatever it takes to help him. Alanna Ubach (she was Maria in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and she’s in Legally Blonde) is great! I loved her voice for this character. She is just the right balance of maturity, fierce determination (Miguel obviously gets it from her) and love for her family. She has a great song during the climax of the film.
Other Characters. Most of the other characters are Miguel’s family. Most notably, Renee Victor as Abuelita Elena, she is Miguel’s grandmother and she takes after Mama Imelda in that she strongly enforces the ban on music. She’s funny and a bit extreme. Ana Ofelia Murguia as Mama Coco and she gives us a very emotional performance anytime Mama Coco actually speaks. She is Miguel’s great-grandmother. His parents, his family in the Land are all great and colorful characters!
The Look of the Film. Oh man! Pixar is amazing! The look of this film is so beautiful! The colors! Oh wow! The Land of the Dead is so beautiful. The flowers are so vibrant and beautiful, and useful in the story. The way the skeletons look in how there are little-engraved designs in the faces, they look like the masks or the painted skull faces which was a nice touch. The world that is created is inviting and beautiful. Even when Miguel sees it for the first time, my eyes were huge. It’s a feast for the eyes. I want to go and see it for myself, but ya know as a visitor, not a permanent resident. Plus, the attention to detail on the little city of Santa Cecilia is also beautiful, it feels like a real place and while I don’t know much about Dia de Muertos, but I like how the graveyard where families would leave offerings for their families looked like how I’ve seen them before.
The Story. I think this movie created a way for kids to process death. It’s a way in that it’s spirited and touching. At the center, the movie is about family, connection, culture and of course following your heart in a way that doesn’t compromise who you are. It doesn’t feel overly complicated but it also isn’t just a simple story that it feels elementary or childish. It has its twist and turns and it’s emotional. The story can be felt by everyone.
The Music. So I’m listening to the soundtrack while I write this because I didn’t really remember it after leaving the theater minus a few sung songs because of the accompanying scene. Listening to it, the songs I liked in the scenes are still good songs. Germaine Franco, Adrian Molina, Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (The Lopez’s wrote the music in Frozen) wrote the songs and Michael Giacchino composed the score. I liked Hector’s lullaby and “Everyone Knows Juanita” because it’s cute and the scene is emotional. “Un Poco Loco” is probably my favorite in the film because Anthony Gonzalez and Gael Garcia Bernal have so much fun in that song and its super cute! “Proud Corazon” is also a great song for the ending of the film. As I mentioned before Mama Imelda’s song during the climax is also great, it’s in Spanish “La Llorona” and the scene is great.
Emotional. There may be light spoilers here. Just like any Pixar movie or Disney affiliated, they love to add the emotions. I’m also an emotional person these days, but I teared up a lot and I think I full on cried towards the end of the film. I have a big family so that definitely connected with me. One of the big things for the people in the Land of the Dead is that they can only remain there as long as their living family continues to put their pictures up on their ofrenda (alter). The living must also continue to share with their children about their ancestors so their stories can continue to live on. If that does not happen, then the spirit is considered a “forgotten”, and they have a “Final death” in that their spirit completely moves on because they have no connection anymore. That kind of stuff is emotional. Plus, Miguel’s reactions to seeing that happen to people he may have just met were also emotional. A scene after the climax is emotional, I cried. I teared up when Hector sang his lullaby. Then the scene towards the end when Miguel sings Remember Me made me cry. So…if you’re a crier, expect to cry. If you’re not a crier, that’s fine, just know the movie will still get you in the feels.
Not Enough Music. I don’t think there is enough of it in a movie about becoming a musician. I don’t think it needed to be a musical or anything, but the music was pretty spare. It’s a nitpick but something I noticed.
Lags/Feels Slow. In some parts of the film, it feels like it just lags for a moment and I did pull my phone out during those few times, it’s not boring but it definitely feels like the pace slows down and that makes it feel longer than it should and it’s not that long, it’s barely two hours.
Overall, I really loved Coco! I think Pixar has done it again. This movie has heart, it has a strong story, strong leading characters, great supporting characters. Everyone is well-developed and feel like a real family. I definitely don’t want to spoil anything but the title is very important. The film is beautiful with how it looks. Everything is so vibrant and colorful! The songs are fun and accompany their scene well, even listening to the soundtrack, I can’t help but love them on their own. Anthony Gonzalez and Gael Garcia Bernal were great in their roles and had great chemistry with each other. It’s emotional as well and focuses on family, culture, and connection. It has a few flaws in that mostly it lags a bit making it feel slow in places and a minor nitpick with it not having enough music from the characters. Otherwise, I think Coco is a great family film, or see it by yourself and have a nice treat of a sweet movie!
Rating: 4.49 out of 5 stars.
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