Friday, September 27, 2019

Miguel Visits His Family

Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) lives in Mexico with his large family, shoemakers all. He is especially fond of his great-grandmother,  Coco (2017), who was abandoned by her father when she was a small child. Coco's mother, Mamá Imelda (Alanna Ubach) raised her family to despise music, as it was his career as a guitarist that took her husband away from the family. Miguel, however, desperately wants to be a musician, like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), but his  Abuelita (Renee Victor) will have none of it. So, on El Día de Muertos, Miguel attempts to enter a local talent contest - but first he needs to find a guitar.

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.  

This post is part of the Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen. Please visit the website and sample some of the other interesting posts.


  1. I went into this movie not knowing what to expect and was emotionally overwhelmed and delighted. Being able to see the movie with live orchestral accompaniment sounds heavenly.

  2. I love this movie - a modern-day classic in my opinion - and can only imagine how much more moving it is with a live orchestra.

    Thank you for this choice and entry to the blogathon! A must-read on a must-see.


  3. Watching this film at home was already a thrill, and with a live orchestra it must have been sensational - you were lucky! Great review, by the way.

  4. I'll be reporting on at least one more Disney film with live orchestra next year (we already have tickets).


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