This post is part of the Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen.
We were treated to a live orchestral performance to this lovely film, with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap playing the score by Michael Giacchino. The film is a delight, winning the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2018, as well as the award for Best Song for "Remember Me" by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
One of the questions that arise from the movie on first viewing is the title - why is it named after the very elderly Coco, and not Miguel, who is the focus of the film. Well, you have to watch the movie to get that answer, but it is a moving reveal. The relationship between Miguel and his great-great-grandmother is a close one. He enjoys being with Grandma Coco - though he is bemused that she is unable to remember his name - but as she is the only one who really listens to him (or so he believes), Miguel feels great affection for her.
The rest of the family, represented by Abuelita, the matriarch of the family, find Miguel to be a bit of a handful. Abuelita upholds her mother Imelda's edict against music, which becomes the crux of Miguel's problem. He feels a call to music, and is a talented guitarist. In this family who loathes music, how is it possible that he could possibly be one of them. His answer - he is the great-great-grandson of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.
Thrown by a fluke into the land of the dead, Miguel's family on the other side try to send him home, but with Mamá Imelda's proviso that Miguel will give up music. Miguel attempts to thwart her by finding de la Cruz, and getting HIS blessing to go home. Enter Héctor (Gael García Bernal), an impoverished musician who has all but been forgotten by his family. Héctor agrees to help Miguel to de la Cruz if Miguel will put his photo on an ofrenda so he will not be consigned to oblivion. Mr. Bernal brings just the right amount of sadness to the part to make Héctor sympathetic.
Benjamin Bratt is excellent as de la Cruz, a scoundrel if ever there was one. He voices the part with equal amounts of vanity and arrogance. At the same time, he makes the character intriguing - until we find out more about his past.
Be on the listen for Edward James Olmos as Chicharrón (this article in Gizmodo features an interview with Mr. Olmos on his characterization). He's quite wonderful, and will break your heart.
The reviews of this film were quite positive - Roger Ebert called it "a sprightly story;" The New York Times was a bit less enthusiastic, but still enjoyed the film; the Hollywood Reporter called it "one of Disney-Pixar's most engaging efforts."
The power of a live orchestra providing background to an excellent movie is something that cannot be emphasized too much. If you have the chance to see one of these film and concert combos, please consider going. I'm going to leave you with a trailer to Coco.