Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Loco for 'Coco'

Directors: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Voice Talent: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Jaime Camil, Edward James Olmos
Released: November 21, 2017
Viewed in theaters: December 27, 2017

Pixar has done it again! They've managed to a) make another great movie, and b) make me cry while watching it! The last Pixar movie that made me do that was Inside Out which was the last Pixar movie I saw in theaters (in 2015). I have seen Finding Dory on Netflix, but I missed out on The Good Dinosaur and whatever Car sequels came out between now and then. I saw a commerical for this movie where a reviewer said Coco was the best Pixar movie since Toy Story 3', and I'm thinking, Uh, did they not see Inside Out? I saw this with my mom and my five-year-old niece and my mom gave it high praise saying it's "the best movie she's seen all year".  That doesn't surprise me because she also took Gracie to see Boss Baby and The Emoji Movie and I've heard the latter is one of the worst movies of the year!

The movie starts with a prologue of a young Mexican boy, Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), telling the audience about his family and he goes wayyy back to his great, great grandma and how his family became a bunch of shoemakers because of her.  We find out that Mama Imelda (the great, great grandmother) was married to a musician and they had a daughter (his great grandmother, Coco, whom the movie is named after), but her husband left her and Imelda had to raise her daughter by herself. She learned how to make shoes and taught her daughter who would go on to teach her children and so on. The Rivera family has a strict rule: absolutely no music. They don't want to listen to it, they don't want anybody to play it. I have to wonder: what if Imelda's husband had been a chef? Would they have a strict no food rule? I know you don't need music to survive, but that seems a little extreme to cut away something like music that's everywhere and hard to avoid unless you only go to places like the library. 

The Rivera family seem to know this and this is why they don't like Miguel going to the Plaza because they know there's always a lot of street musicians out there. The young boy (or, should I say, muchacho) has a passion and talent for music and plays his guitar in private. He has a secret shrine set up to his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, who was a huge star in his native Mexico until he was killed when a large bell fell on him during one of his performances (and I admit: that made me LOL). 

It takes place during the Day of the Dead holiday where Mexicans honor and celebrate their deceased relatives. The Riveras have all the photos of their long-gone, but not forgotten relatives out and they go all the way from the most recently departed to a picture of Mama Imelda with Coco when she was a little girl and a man whose head has been cut out of the photo - obviously her husband (Mama Imelda was REALLY angry with him). Now maybe some of you can go as far back as Miguel can on your family tree, but me? Ehh... I know the names of my grandparents, but I could not tell you then names of my parents' grandparents, but I'm sure if I heard them mention the names, then I would find them familiar. I definitely do not know the names of my grandparents' grandparents! 

After doing some research, Miguel becomes convinced that de la Cruz is his great, great grandfather. And the clues do seem to point to that. He wants to perform at a music festival being held in the Plaza, but his grandmother finds out and smashes his guitar, which seems a bit extreme! He frantically runs around, asking people if he can borrow their instrument, but to no avail. He ends up stealing de la Cruz's guitar which is above his tomb in his mausoleum. Somehow, doing this makes him end up in the Land of the Dead. I've mentioned in my review of  The Black Cauldron how the Skeleton Army scared me - any age me! The skeletons in Coco are not like that at all (you don't want to be scaring your audience when they're probably primarily children!) and they're more "fun", which I believe is the word my mom used to describe them. A skeleton could seamlessly take apart their bones and put them back together again, like a puzzle. 

Miguel meets up with all his deceased relatives who are happy to see him, but he needs to be sent back to where he came from before sunrise or he will forever remain in the Land of the Dead (yikes!) He needs a family member's blessing in order to play music, but is not given it. He is returned to the Mausoleum, right before he stole the guitar, but ends up stealing it again and once again lands back in the Land of the Dead. Miguel runs away from his dead relatives, in hopes to find de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) because he knows he will get his blessing.

Meanwhile, we meet another character named Hector, a skeleton who is trying to cross a check point, but is not able to because his picture was not put up by his relatives. In this world, after you have died, if your family does put up a picture of you, you are not able to cross over to join the other members of your family because they have forgotten you so you are alone forever! It's so sad! I knew Hector was going to be an important part of the story because he's voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal and you don't use him for just a scene or two. Miguel overhears him telling someone that he know de la Cruz so he enlists Hector's help, who in turn, wants Miguel to put up his picture so he can see his family.

Before they begin their adventure, Hector paints Miguel's face and hands so he looks like a skeleton, otherwise he kinda stands out as being living in the Land of the Dead! They think the best way to get de la Cruz's attention is to win an American Idol-type talent show where there's a big showcase of skeletons playing different instruments and/or singing. Miguel does win, but he's quickly discovered by his deceased relatives and runs away again. His great, great grandmother does find him and warns him that it's too dangerous, but he ignores her and goes to find de la Cruz.

Now here is the time where I need to put up some big spoiler warnings. This movie is still relatively new and I know not everybody has seen it, so here is your chance to see it if you haven't yet. And I highly recommend it. It is definitely Pixar's best since Inside Out (or, Toy Story 3 if you didn't care for Inside Out like that reviewer apparently didn't!) So far I haven't really spoiled anything major, but I am about to so you have been warned!

But before we do that, can we talk about the Frozen short that was shown before the movie? Actually, I was very fortunate that they didn't even show it before our showing. I had completely forgotten about it and had just forgotten that a short animated film is usually shown before any Pixar or Disney movie. I remember seeing Tweets around the time Coco came out about how everyone hated the Frozen short (which features five songs, I think?), but I didn't think anything of it. However, after listening to podcast reviews of Coco where many of the reviewers did see the short (and everyone hated it), I found out it's 22 minutes long! Holy Guacamole! That is NOT a short! That is an episode of a sitcom! A short is suppose to be 3-4 minutes long. I found out that it was pulled on December 8 because everyone hated it! I am so thankful I didn't have to see it! And I'm going to say it: Coco is better than Frozen


There are quite a few twists and turns this movie takes and I didn't see any of them coming! First of all, even before Miguel meets de la Cruz, he finds out that Hector knew him because they were partners: Hector wrote the music that de la Cruz sung. We all know that de la Cruz was killed by a fallen bell and throughout the movie, we just figured Hector died from food poisoning, but it turns out he was killed from actual poison put there in his food by de la Cruz himself! So not only is Miguel's great great grandfather a famous musician, but he's also a murderer!

But wait...there's more. Things take a serious turn when it is revealed that de la Cruz is NOT Miguel's great great grandfather, but rather it is Hector! For a minute, I seriously thought that Imelda WAS married to de la Cruz, but had an affair with Hector and Coco was a result of that, but no, I had to remind myself that a) this is a kids' film, and b) that would be way too convoluted. No, Hector was the headless man in that photo all along (and the reason he couldn't get past the checkpoint as his full picture was not put up). We find out that Hector had plans all along to return to his family, the same one he left in order to pursue his music career, but realized he made a mistake and wanted to return to them. De la Cruz found out about this and this is why he killed his friend/partner. He also took all the credit for all the songs Hector wrote.

Miguel and Hector are trapped in the pit de la Cruz threw them in (nice guy), but are rescued by Miguel's family. They make sure that EVERYONE in the Land of the Dead learns the truth about de la Cruz and he is once again killed by a bell (even though he was already dead in the first place, but it was a nice touch for a horrible character). During this whole time, de la Cruz was trying to get the photo Miguel had of Hector in order for him to spend eternity on one side. Unfortunately the photo was lost and Miguel did not have time to retrieve it because he had to be sent back before he wasn't able to return anymore. This time his great great grandmother gives her blessing and Hector wants him to make sure that Coco, his daughter, won't forget him.

This is about the time the tears are forming and from here on out, I'll be a big blubbering mess! Miguel runs to his great grandmother's room with his guitar. I for sure thought he was going to play and sing the song that her father wrote for her called "Remember Me" (which Hector played for Miguel in the Land of the Dead), but it takes awhile to get there. When he does start playing, this is when she gets life in her eye and starts to sing along, and oh Lord, I am crying! Mama Coco says "Papa" and has a picture of Hector tucked away so he is now able to be put up on the shrine.

The movie ends with Mama Coco passing away (pretty sure she was nearing 100, so not a huge shock) and showing the next Day of the Dead holiday where the Rivera family now has her portrait up and we see her reunited with her parents in the Land of the Dead. :::sniffle:::

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