Week of 11/26/2017 – Film recommendation: COCO
Coco follows the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who dreams of one day becoming a great musician just like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt); however, due to a “family curse” Miguel’s great-great-grandmother placed on future generations, music has been banned from the household and he is forced to carry on the family legacy of making shoes. As the family prepares to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Miguel’s abuela discovers his hidden passion for music and destroys his handmade guitar, causing him to run away from his family. Desperate to display his talent at a local talent show, he attempts to steal Ernesto de la Cruz’s guitar. In the process, Miguel finds himself whisked away to the vibrant and gorgeous Land of the Dead, where he reconnects with family members who have passed on, and meets the charming Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who claims he can help Miguel meet Ernesto de la Cruz in exchange for a favor in the real world. Together, the two venture on an unforgettable journey to discover the truth behind Miguel’s family history.
What really gives the film its “wow factor,” is its colorful visuals. From our first glimpse in to the Land of the Living where Miguel struggles to live in a world without music, to the Land of the Dead and alebrijes (spirit animals), these worlds look carefully thought out. Although the story tackles sensitive subjects such as losing loved ones, the bright colors and beautiful details provide a sense of lightheartedness. The visuals also work as a way to pay homage to those who have passed on; we often think of death as cold or dark, but this film did a wonderful job in capturing the beauty of it all. Personally, it planted this visual in my head that the loved ones I’ve lost are in a place of vibrancy and peace.
In terms of storytelling and character development, there was never a moment during the film where it felt rushed. Because all Pixar / Disney movies pride themselves on morals to the stories they tell, I felt like the writers were successful in providing us with three main morals: the importance of family, the vital impact music plays in our lives, and to take risks to fulfill your dreams, even when the odds are against you. Although a passion for music caused Miguel to feel disconnected with his family, in the end, music brought them back together. Belief in his own talent played an essential role in his character development. It is hard enough to surround yourself with people who refuse to support your dreams, but when those people are your own family members, giving up sounds like the easiest route. Miguel knew the risk he was taking by pursuing his dreams, but the respect he had for his family and apparent adoration of music throughout the film made it so much easier to root for him. I also favored the subtle message of what fame can do to someone. Golden opportunities can either humble someone, as it did with Miguel and Hector. Additionally, it taught them valuable lessons about family and how one should never disregard family over material possessions. In contrast, fame and fortune can poison personalities, as shown through Ernesto de la Cruz’s character. He became fame hungry to the point where he murdered his best friend just to get ahead.
I am always a fan of beautiful storytelling and in my personal opinion, Pixar writers rarely disappoint. With its touching story, gorgeous soundtrack, lovable characters, and vibrant visuals, Coco is without a doubt, my favorite animated film of 2017. (10/10)