Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ delivers a tale para toda la familia! (Review)

There’s something that makes me different.

There are many routes I could take when it comes to writing this review. I could start with the soapbox rant of how this is NOT a rip-off of 2014’s The Book of Life, which many have already stated. I could take the cultural route, and talk incessantly about how this film compares to folklore. Or I could take the route of being a huge fan of Disney. So I figured, what the heck; I’ll just take them all!

Coco, directed by  Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, stars newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, and so many others! Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting a charming trickster named Hector, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.

No music! No music!

The film, first off, is not what people will be expecting, as is with most Disney films. And it’s definitely not a rip-off of Jorge R. Gutiérrez’s The Book of Life. The only similarity between the films is that they are both set in the Land beyond the living (Land of the Remembered in The Book of Life, and the Land of the Dead in Coco). Both of these are references to the place Latinos believe where souls who’ve past spend eternity. Aside from this “location,” and having music in the films, there’s not really much else in similarity. But stating that this film is a copycat just based on the location is ridiculous! By this logic, every film shot in Los Angeles or New York City are all copycats of each other. Not very sound logic, if you ask me.

Now, one of the things that this film SHOULD be closely scrutinized on is how culturally appropriate it will be. As a Latino, and someone who would love to point out any culturally insensitive film in a heartbeat, I only have one thing to say about this film: Coco is remarkable! This film paints a beautiful picture of our culture and family dynamic. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I had to keep myself from laughing too loud because of the similarities I saw between the film and my family. Beyond the setting and the small town aesthetic, Coco hit every key facet that came to memory from my own childhood! From my abuela (grandma) offering to feed me three dinners in one meal sitting, to our family’s strict holding to traditions. I had to stop myself from identifying certain family members in some of the characters, just so I could focus on the movie, as a whole.

Never forget how much your family loves you.

One of the key things about the film that drives a story home, however, is more than just environments and traditions; it’s also the voices behind the characters. This film has a stellar almost all-Latin cast (what Pixar film doesn’t have John Ratzenberger in it?), starting with one of the outstanding stars of the film, newcomer Anthony Gonzalez. Much like Auli’i Cravalho’s big break with Disney’s hit film of last year, Moana, Gonzalez carries that same charm and promise as a young actor. Not only did his performance move me as an actor, but his ability to also sing the songs in the film impressed me as well! Much like Cravalho, I have really high expectations for whatever is in store for Gonzalez in the future.

Aside from Gonzalez, there are also many other incredible vocal talents, such as Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt. These two powerhouses bring so much to each scene, and seeing how their voices embodied legends of old, like Vicente Fernandez, Pedro Enfante and Jorge Negrete, gave me the chills. But it doesn’t stop there; Alanna Ubach also brought the house down with her incredible performance, as well as Renee Victor. And that’s not even boasting about the fun and interesting cameos that turn up throughout the film, such as Cheech Marin as a corrections officer, Gabriel Iglesias as the clerk, and even Edward James Olmos as a character named Chicharrón. From start to finish, this film takes every opportunity to shine.

One cannot deny who one is meant to be.

But without the character’s creation, themselves, there wouldn’t be any voice performances to be had, and that’s where the geniuses at Disney come in. Taking into account the amount of research and detail they give to their previous films, this project was no different: it was given time and effort to create a spectacle that was like no other. From attaching a GoPro to the neck of guitars and watching how Spanish guitarists move their fingers, to actually visiting Mexico and getting a feel of the art, architecture and music of the people. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved the music of this movie! So much care was put into creating a film that would not only impress children, but fans from all over the world, and it truly shows. The creative teams of Moana took similar care and respect, and the success was through the roof. Coco will be no different, and really give moviegoers a taste of something special.

All in all, Coco takes a simple story of a young boy’s incredible journey of finding what truly brings him joy, and brings the color and creativity that only Disney can. But this film goes beyond mere storytelling; it is a reminder. We are living in a time where joy and laughter are becoming harder and harder to come by. That’s the harsh reality of the world around us. As great as it is to escape for an hour and a half and see a film, there just aren’t as many opportunities in the outside world anymore. However, it’s dreamers like Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina that are allowing fans of all ages to tap into that child-like joy that can only come from within.

You, my boy, are meant to be a musician.

An influential Mexican comedic actor known as Cantinflas once said “The first obligation of every human being is to be happy, the second is to make others happy.” Cantinflas, who held an impressive career in Mexico and the U.S., was once regarded as the Charlie Chaplin of Mexico. In fact, Chaplin, after seeing one of his films, declared Cantinflas to be the greatest comedian alive. Considered a pioneer of the cinema of Mexico, Cantinflas knew the importance of what fueled humanity’s purpose: joy.

Not just in the mere chuckle that can be fabricated after from watching a funny video online or hearing a silly joke. Our pure purpose in life is driven by the power to remember the pure ecstasy of getting up each Saturday morning as kids. Or how it feels to run through sprinklers in our bare feet. Or even in the power of feeling the joy of being in the presence of family members, present or past. Especially in that.

It’s that kind of joy that makes the darkness shy away, causing the world to become a bit brighter. We can do this; we can be that shining light in the world today. Coco is one of those films that goes beyond its story, and reminds you that true joy lies in the places it shines the brightest. When we find it, we need to take hold of it, and never let go. Share with those you love, but always remember where your joy lives and, as Ernesto de la Cruz once said, “Follow your heart.”

Rating: 5/5 Atoms

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