For this month’s final review for Genre Grandeur – Movies About Musicians, here’s a review of Coco (2017) by Debbie at Moon in Gemini.
In case you missed any of the other reviews, here’s a recap:
- Whiplash (2014) – Michael
- Crazy Heart (2009) – Rob
- This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Quiggy
- Walk the Line (2005) – Rob
- La Vie En Rose (2007) – Darren
- Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) – Rob
- Coco (2017) – Debbie
In addition, I watched and reviewed 5 movies for my companion series Genre Guesstimation. Unfortunately, None of them will now be considered among my favorites of the genre.
Thanks again to Debbie at Moon in Gemini for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In and it is Documentary Films
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Dec by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Quiggy!
Let’s see what Debbie thought of this movie:
Imagine living in a family that hates musicians so much even listening to music is forbidden.
I can’t imagine it either.
This, and only this, is the one misstep in the otherwise glorious Pixar 3D animated film Coco. Especially considering the film takes place in Mexico. Music—including music people outside of Mexico probably think is merely trotted out for tourists, like mariachi and ranchera—is serious stuff in Mexico and throughout Latin culture. Coco is a wondrous tribute to how music impacts the lives and memories of ordinary people—through street music, recordings, and most of all movies.
Young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) lives in a family of shoemakers who ban music of any kind from their lives. This is a tradition dating back to the family’s matriarch, Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Mama Imelda (Alanna Ulbach), who was abandoned along with her daughter Coco by her musician husband.
Secretly, Miguel has taught himself to sing and play guitar. He also watches movies starring his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who came from his town. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel accidentally finds a picture of Imelda’s husband (with the face torn out) showing Ernesto de la Cruz’s famous guitar. Miguel excitedly comes to the conclusion that he is his great-great-grandfather.
Banned from entering a music contest in the town by his grandmother, Miguel decides to take Ernesto’s guitar from his tomb. The act sends Miguel to the Land of the Dead, where he can interact with his dead relatives. Mama Imelda will give him the blessing he needs to get back to the world of the living—but only if he swears he will give up music.
Desperate to get home, Miguel seeks out Ernesto de la Cruz for his blessing. Another inhabitant of the Land of the Dead, Hector (Gael García Bernal), promises to help Miguel as long as he puts his picture on the family’s “ofrenda” (collection of family photos displayed for the Day of the Dead) so he won’t be forgotten and thus not fade away into nothing.
I tend not to be a huge fan of musicals, but this is a rare case where I was left craving even more music. Many of the songs i.e. Un Poco Loco, The World Es Mi Familia, Proud Corazon, and the central lullaby, Remember Me, echo traditional Mexican music. And then there is the traditional song La Llorona, which almost made ME weep because of the way it is used in the movie. As a fan of the Epoca de Oro (Golden Age) of Mexican Cinema, I love how Ernesto de la Cruz is a riff on popular actor/musicians of that age such as Jorge Negrete, Javier Solís, and Pedro Infante.
The animation and the way it’s used to create the Land of the Dead is stunning in every way, which is what you expect in a Pixar film. The overwhelming beauty of the colors and traditional Mexican designs combine with the music to make the film a unique experience.
As an artist, as someone with Latin heritage, as one who loves music, Coco resonates with me in ways that few movies do. I understand Miguel’s conflict between love of music and love of family. The film’s denouement (which I wouldn’t spoil for the world) is and probably will long remain one of my favorites of all time.