Susan Granger’s review of “Coco” (Disney/Pixar)
Pixar Animation is known as “family-friendly” – and none more than their 19th feature, a fantasy that faithfully depicts Mexican culture, celebrates the Hispanic customs and folklore of Dia de los Muertos, and acknowledges cultural icons like Frida Kahlo and El Santo.
In the tiny Mexican town of Santa Cecilia, the Rivera family has been making shoes for several generations, and 12 year-old Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzales) is expected to continue the family tradition.
Years ago, as the story goes, Miguel’s great-great grandfather, a musician, deserted the family, leaving his beloved great-great grandmother Coco to raise their family alone. Ever since, the Riveras have had an aversion to music.
Problem is: Miguel loves music and has taught himself to play the guitar, studying the work of a local singing legend, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).
On the national holiday known as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which joyously honors the memory of one’s ancestors, Miguel is determined to perform at the fiesta’s annual talent show in the mariachi plaza.
When his abuelita (grandmother) smashes his guitar, rebellious Miguel sneaks into Ernesto de la Cruz’s mausoleum and steals his idol’s prized instrument, unleashing a curse that catapults him to the Land of the Dead, where he must seek a family member’s blessing in order to return home.
The Land of the Dead is a brightly-colored netherworld of whimsically clattering skeletons, luminescent winged spirits, sparkling marigold petals, and long-buried family secrets. That’s where Miguel meets forlorn Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who claims to have known Ernesto de la Cruz, whom Miguel now believes was his great-great grandfather.
Co-directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) and Mexican-American Adrian Molina, it delivers both dazzling visuals and an emotional catharsis, utilizing an all-Latino vocal cast that includes Mexican stars Alfonso Arau and Selene Luna.
And the song “Remember Me” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (“Frozen”) still reverberates.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Coco” is a poignant 8, strumming the heartstrings. Eso!