Some kids are able to relate to the Day of the Dead tradition based on the shows they watch and the lessons they learn in their Spanish classes. In 2014, “The Book of Life” animated that tradition, and that was a good movie. This year, Disney and Pixar made “Coco,” which also focuses on that tradition, but is a lot better than “The Book of Life.” It’s not just an animated feature; it’s a personal study.
The story involves a family, who has grown to hate music after their great grandfather abandoned his family to pursue his dream of being a famous musician. One boy determined to break that family curse is Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who looks up to the late great musician Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), best known for his hit song “Remember Me” (written by Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez of “Frozen” fame), and is convinced he is his great great grandson.
On the Day of the Dead, he tries to borrow his famous guitar from his cemetery, and ends up becoming a spirit and reunites with his long-lost relatives in the Land of the Dead. His only way back to the living world is to get a blessing from a family member. His great great grandmother Mama Imelda (voiced by Alanna Ubach) is too strict to give him his preferred blessing, so he must turn to Ernesto.
The Land of the Dead is a colorful, beautiful city, where everyone is a skeleton, alebrijes (colorful animal toys) are spiritual guides, and Ernesto’s music is loved by everyone. And a new friend Miguel meets is Hector (voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal), a former musician, who wants to return to the living world to see his daughter, before he ends up forgotten.
“Coco” is directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) and Adrian Molina, who both honor the Mexican traditions, as well as telling a challenging story. If I could, I’d tell you how challenging it is. But you have to see the movie to find out.
It’s smart, colorful, and full of imagination. You have great voice work from Gonzalez, Bernal, Ubach, and Bratt; a rainbow of colors; and a lot of heart. Some jokes in the living world do grow a bit tired, but still, “Coco” is an absolute delight.
⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2“Coco” is preceded by the latest theatrical “Frozen” short film “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure,” which runs for about 20 minutes, and is given a Christmas theme with some new memorable songs. Since Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) had to live in seclusion, she and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) couldn’t have a family Christmas tradition. So its up to Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) and Sven the reindeer to find them traditions.
The first theatrical “Frozen” short film was “Frozen Fever,” but I liked “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” even better for expanding Anna and Elsa’s story a bit more, for allowing Olaf to continue his goofiness without trying so hard, and for allowing me to hear Gad, Menzel, Bell, and Jonathan Groff (as Kristoff) magical voices. I gave Menzel a rose for her radiant voice, and hearing her sing in this, makes me glad I did.
My only problem with it is it could have been longer, but then again, I wouldn’t have been talking about “Coco” in the first place.