“Coco” is a charming movie that rightly deserves the nod from the Academy, a nomination in the Best Animated Feature Film category. It leaves viewers with a serious case of last song syndrome and a bit of the sniffles.
These are exactly the reasons why I’m never watching “Coco” again. It goes on my list of emotionally scarring films that include Studio Ghibli’s “Grave of the Fireflies.” (Some days we can still hear Setsuko’s soft cry to her brother Seita.)
This Disney Pixar masterpiece masquerades as a wholesome, child-friendly movie. Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) wants to be a musician like his late idol, Ernesto dela Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But his great-great grandmother had imposed a music ban, which the Rivera family religiously follows to this day. On Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Miguel ends up in the Land of the Dead, a colorful afterworld where spirits and fantastical creatures roam.
The animation is a feast for the eyes; director Lee Unkrich created Land of the Dead that is far from lifeless. The bridge that connects the two worlds is made up of yellow-gold petals that illuminate when stepped on. Frida Kahlo even makes a “cameo” in this feature that puts the Mexican heritage under the spotlight.
Songs like “Un Poco Loco,” “The World Es Mi Familia” (lyrics by Germaine Franco and Adrian Molina) can keep anyone singing and swaying to the Latino beats for weeks. “Remember Me” (written by the Oscar-winning duo of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez), catchy as it is in the beginning, transforms to a heart-wrenching track that cues waterworks.
“Coco” has the universal message of a Disney Pixar film—go after your dreams, do not be afraid. But let’s call “Coco” what it really is—tearjerker. Because, what do we really celebrate on Dia de los Muertos? Our dearly departed and the memories they had left behind.
“Coco” doesn’t stop there. It asks harder questions—what happens to those who were forgotten? How do we remember them?