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Coco Movie Review

Reviewed by on Nov 21, 2017
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Do you want to head to the Cineplex to see Disney•Pixar’s Coco? Kidzworld just saw it in 3D. Is this adventure/fantasy tale based in Latino culture a must see for the holidays? Check our movie review.

By: Lynn Barker

Small Mexican village resident, 12-year-old Miguel Riviera (Anthony Gonzales), lives with his loving family of shoemakers but dreams of being a successful musician like his uber-popular idol, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Problem is, his family has banned any music or musicians since his great-great grandfather left his family to pursue a musical career. Can Miguel gain the courage to follow his dream despite the odds?

An Aztec marigold petal can send Miguel homeAn Aztec marigold petal can send Miguel home

Big Revelation

Young Miguel has built his own guitar and practices in secret learning from the songs and life of his musician idol Ernesto. Only his super old, great-grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) seems to be sympathetic to his longings. On Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Miguel accidentally breaks an old photo on his great, great grandmother Mama Imelda’s (Alanna Ubach) ofrenda (offering altar) which contains photos and tributes to the family dead. Part of the old photo becomes visible and shows the body of a man with a guitar that looks just like Ernesto de la Cruz’s custom guitar! Miguel thinks this means de la Cruz is his great, great grandfather!

Miguel strums Ernesto's guitar and a strange magic happensMiguel strums Ernesto's guitar and a strange magic happensCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

The Contest

When Miguel tries to sign up for a local talent contest, he’s discovered and his guitar is destroyed by family. Heartbroken, Miguel takes his pal Dante, a local street dog, with him and runs away.  Miguel breaks into de la Cruz's tomb to borrow his guitar and use it in the contest. Strumming the guitar, he becomes an undead kind of living ghost who can’t be seen by the living. Only Dante can see him. In the cemetery, Miguel meets his deceased relatives who don’t get why Miguel can see them. They take him to the Land of the Dead, an afterlife world where the dead have lined up to cross over to the living world to visit their relatives on this special day.

Miguel learns to sing and play by watching old Ernesto video tapesMiguel learns to sing and play by watching old Ernesto video tapesCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Crossing Over

Miguel learns that Imelda can’t cross over to her living family because Miguel has taken the photo of her, young Coco and the mystery man with him. It is through photos and family memories that the dead can visit the living once a year. Before sunrise, Miguel will become dead and take skeleton form. He needs a relative to bless him with an Aztec Marigold petal in order to go home. Imelda will do so BUT she will demand that he give up all music when he gets home. Miguel can’t agree. If he can find Ernesto, surely his musical great, great, grandfather would give him the blessing without any conditions.

Miguel and street dog Dante are suddenly in the Land of the DeadMiguel and street dog Dante are suddenly in the Land of the DeadCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Mama Imelda will bless Miguel to go home but with conditionsMama Imelda will bless Miguel to go home but with conditionsCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Enter Héctor

Leaving his family, Miguel meets a forgotten and lonely thief named Héctor (Gael Garcia Bernal) who says he knows Ernesto and can take Miguel to him if he will take a photo of Héctor back to the Land of the Living with him so that Héctor can be remembered there and perhaps see his daughter again. Miguel agrees and Héctor takes him to the land of the forgotten where they get a guitar for Miguel from Chicharron (Edward James Olmos) who then sadly disappears because nobody among the living remembers him.

Miguel's grandmother hates musicians!Miguel's grandmother hates musicians!Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

Contest and Party

After Héctor paints Miguel’s face so that he looks like the other skeletal people in the Land of the Dead, he talks Miguel into entering a musical contest. The winner can easily get into de la Cruz’s mansion for his big Day of the Dead party that night. Meanwhile Imelda and the rest of the dead family search for Miguel with the help of Imelda’s cool spirit animal (an alebrije) named Pepita, a colorful giant cat. After arguing with Héctor, Miguel leaves him and gets into Ernesto’s party on his own.

Héctor paints Miguel's face so he can fit inHéctor paints Miguel's face so he can fit inCourtesy of Disney•Pixar


At the palace, Miguel sings, attracts the attention of Ernesto and convinces him that he is his great-great grandson. Ernesto is about to give Miguel the blessing that will send him back home when Héctor sneaks in and reveals that he, a once well-known songwriter and composer, used to be Ernesto’s partner in the music business. He had decided to abandon the business and go home to his family but Ernesto wanted all of Héctor's songs so…he poisoned him to death and took credit for all his music! Miguel is shattered. Ernesto takes Héctor's photo and dumps him and Miguel in a deep water pit (cenote).

When alive, Ernesto sang in big spectacularsWhen alive, Ernesto sang in big spectacularsCourtesy of Disney•Pixar


What other secrets is Héctor protecting? Will Imelda and the dead family find Miguel before sunrise when he will be dead forever? Can he get the family blessing he needs to cross back over to the living world without giving up his music? Can Héctor and Miguel get Héctor's photo back? Will Ernesto pay for his crime and will Héctor ever get credit for his songs? 

Miguel, with his dead family members, is discoveredMiguel, with his dead family members, is discoveredCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Wrapping Up

Coco explores a colorful custom that many young people, unless they are of Latino descent, aren’t really aware of. Why not celebrate our loved ones who have passed on? The Day of the Dead yearly celebration is a healthy way to do this and this beautifully-animated and acted film examines the practice in detail while providing a very heartfelt tale of young ambition, love, loss, life, death and family unity. The film will make you laugh but also cry several times.

Ernesto de la Cruz is proud of his successErnesto de la Cruz is proud of his successCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

The story is quite complicated with plot twist surprises that will be appreciated by teens and adults although younger audience members might not “get” everything. It is a bit unclear exactly how Miguel is made a living ghost. Is it by just strumming Ernesto’s guitar? Not really clear. Otherwise, the story fits together quite nicely.

Héctor introduces Miguel and Dante to the Land of the DeadHéctor introduces Miguel and Dante to the Land of the Dead

Voice actors do a really nice job and newbie, Anthony Gonzales, now 13 but only 10 when he recorded Miguel’s speaking and singing voice, is wonderful. It is very fitting that Disney/Pixar hired a talented, all Latino cast to portray these characters.

Miguel loves his very elderly great grandma CocoMiguel loves his very elderly great grandma CocoCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Visually, the movie is amazingly colorful and detailed. It looks great in 3D.  I loved all of the spirit animals, especially the giant cat and Dante the dog in his living world and Land of the Dead forms. I personally own several of the alebrije, wooden, carved versions of this type of animal. Coco is a great choice for the whole family this holiday season. We go four stars. You’ll be entertained and also learn a few things about the Latino culture. 

Coco Movie Rating: 4

Coco Movie PosterCoco Movie PosterCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

See Coco in theaters now!


Have Your Say

Were you aware of the Day of the Dead customs? Do you save photos and pay tribute to your relatives who have passed on? Comment below!