“Coco” (2017)

Miguel wants to sing and play the guitar like his idol, the late Ernesto de la Cruz, a legendary singer. When his dog Dante accidentally shakes the ofrenda and knocks over a photo of Imelda, Coco, and the great-great grandfather with his head ripped away, Miguel sees his relative holding a guitar belonging to Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel believes de la Cruz is their relative. When Miguel reveals this information and his musical ambition to his family, they do not understand. His Abuelita (grandmother) angrily demands he choose between music and his family. She also destroys Miguel’s own makeshift guitar.

Twelve-year-old Miguel Rivera is the only music-loving person in a multi-generational Mexican family that has banned music from their lives forever. Miguel’s great-great grandfather abandoned his wife Imelda and daughter Coco for a life on the road as a musician. No more music after that. Ancestors are revered and always remembered. Their photos and food are left on the ofrenda (altar). Imelda and all her descendants became shoe-makers. Such is Miguel’s destiny.

Miguel and his dog Dante in the Land of the Dead

Miguel runs away to enter a talent show. He needs a guitar, so he steals de la Cruz’s from the mausoleum dedicated to him. The marigold petals around Miguel light up and suddenly he sees deceased spirits on this Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). No one alive can see Miguel except his dog Dante. Some of Miguel’s relatives escort him to The Land of the Dead, which is more alive than The Land of the Living in many ways.

Miguel finds his great-great grandmother Imelda angry because she cannot travel back to The Land of the Living on this auspicious day. Her picture was knocked off the ofrenda.  The family learns that Miguel has a curse placed on him for stealing a guitar of the deceased de la Cruz, which has turned him into an incomplete spirit. Miguel must leave The Land of the Dead by sunrise or he will turn into a spirit forever.

Only a blessing from a deceased relative can send Miguel back to The Land of the Living. Imelda gives Miguel her blessing on one condition: give up music. He promises to do so. Miguel is transported back to the mausoleum, then immediately takes the guitar. Three seconds later he is back in The Land of the Dead because he broke his promise. Furious, Imelda demands Miguel do what she says. Miguel refuses and runs off to get the blessing of his great-great grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz.

I’m stopping at the point where Miguel leaves for his quest to find Ernesto de la Cruz. This movie is SPECTACULAR. It has every possible fantastic thing going for it, including stunning, colorful animation, beautiful music, and a near perfect story.

Coco also raises the stakes: Miguel MUST return home by sunrise or he is stuck in the spirit world. Hector, his ally, MUST have Miguel place his photo on the ofrenda ASAP or he will fade into nothingness. By the time Miguel, back in The Land of the Living, runs to his Mama Coco, my tears were already falling. The ending is right up there with all three Toy Story movies, which all ended on the perfect note. (Makes me worried about Toy Story 4, so we’ll see.)

The only thing I didn’t like was that I didn’t see the movie in a theater. “Coco” is a film meant to be seen on a big screen.

An enthusiastic Ten out of Ten Mocha Angels.

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