aspiration would likely be supported. But this brood isn’t just unsupportive of Miguel’s artistic desires – they’ve also completely banned music from the household.
This might seem overly dramatic. But the Riveras have a convincing reason for despising anything melodic: some decades ago, the family’s matriarch, Imelda (Alanna Ubach), was married to a musician who eventually dumped her and their newborn child to pursue his burgeoning career. As such, the Riveras have associated years of unhappiness with the art form.
But understandably, this makeshift ban is something Miguel will not accept. Blessed with lightning-fast fingers and an impressive lyrical ability, he knows that his love of music is something that cannot be tucked away.
Without anyone in his family willing to support him, he finds solitude in his own unofficial secret hideaway. There, he spends time with his guitar, the neighborhood dog, and old movies starring music legend Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), to whom Miguel looks up.
The movie starts just as the Día de Muertos holiday is beginning, and this coincides with Miguel’s decision to try to enter a celebration-centric talent show to win both his village’s and family’s approval. This hits a snag, though, when his grandma smashes up his guitar in a fit of rage.
Desperate, he breaks into de la Cruz’s tomb thinking he’ll be able to get his hands on the singer’s famed guitar without anyone noticing. But this unleashes a sort of quasi-curse: before he can so much as admire the instrument’s sound, Miguel finds himself invisible to everyone in the area – except for the visiting spirits. He has, it seems, temporarily become a ghost. He’s informed that the only way things can return to normal is if he gets a blessing to return to the living world from someone who resides in the Land of the Dead.
His deceased family members are more than willing to help him, but there’s a catch: they’ll only let him return to Earth in his boyish form if he stays away from music. This, of course, won’t do. So he sets out to find the spirit of de la Cruz, whom he’s come to believe just might actually be the great-great grandfather who purportedly ruined his family’s life.
Such kickstarts a magnificently entertaining journey, with the pit stops delightful (there’s a great Frida Kahlo cameo here) and the animation high concept and stunningly beautiful. Indeed, this is one of Pixar’s most fanciful features – it’s Miyazaki-esque in its whimsy and humor.
And it is also among its most touching. Though the studio’s no stranger to making movies that almost always cater to the you’ll-laugh-and-you’ll-cry formula, Coco earns its throat lumps and misty eyes in ways most films do not. While not as laugh-out-loud funny as, say, 2009’s Up or 2016’s Finding Dory (it’s very much of the plain and simply cute category), it makes up for choosing adorability over belly laughs with a massive heart, which it often wears on its sleeve.
For so much of its first act, we’re inclined to be skeptical of its familiarity: a talented, charming boy has a dream that isn’t supported by his family? But the emotional surprises increase as Coco moves along, and so does our adoration of it. By its end, we’re on the verge of wiping away tears, and maybe even proclaiming that this is the sort of movie we never want to end. Per usual, Pixar has outdone themselves: they’ve made a quote unquote children’s movie whose appeal proves itself to be pretty universal. How they’ve thus far almost exclusively made instant classics is monumental. But even more monumental is how they’ve been so easily able to win over even the most dubious of audience members. Tireless optimism, it seems, is a cinematic ingredient that gets the best of us most of the time.
Backed by a well-cast, all-Latinx voice ensemble, Coco is the best family movie of the holiday season. And in our times of unyielding civil strife, a film as feel-good as this one makes for the shot of dopamine I’m sure most of us need to get through the rest of 2017. A
Gael García Bernal
Edward James Olmos
1 Hr., 49 Mins.
Coco December 7, 2017
side from a couple misguided sequels, Pixar’s never made a bad movie – and this year’s Coco (2017), as much a celebration of one’s coming of age as it is a celebration of Mexican culture and folklore, continues the studio’s 19-picture hot streak most of us have likely taken for granted.
In the movie, we find our protagonist in Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a precocious 12-year-old who dreams of someday becoming a famous singer-songwriter. If he were part of any other family, such an