“Coco” Review: Engrossing, Mesmerising & Heart-felt


Coco [2017] – ★★★★★

A fun, twisty tribute to the Mexican folklore, showcasing touching love for music and one’s family.

Coco is a delightful Pixar-produced Academy Awards nominee of 2018. Taking the Mexican folklore and tradition on board, it tells the story of Miguel, a boy living with his family of zapateros or shoemakers in Santa Cecilia, Mexico. Years before, the family imposed an absolute ban on music, because a father of some previous generation left his family to pursue a music career. However, in this present time, Miguel, unbeknown to his family, dreams of becoming a musician, practices music secretly and worships his music idol Ernesto de la Cruz. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel desires to enter a local music completion to fulfil his dream of becoming a musician, but, trying to do so finds him in the secret Land of the Dead, where his adventures only begin.  

In Coco, the most fascinating aspects of the Mexican culture, engrossing story and breath-taking visuals all fuse to deliver an unforgettable cinematic experience. Firstly, this is the animation we have all been waiting for in terms of showcasing the delights of the Mexican culture. The story as a whole revolves around Dia de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), when people pray for, and pay due respect to their ancestors, and generally remember those who have passed on to the other side. It is at this time, as some believe, dead ancestors have the capacity to cross the threshold and visit the living. Details of this fascinatingly morbid festive are everywhere in Coco: from the burning of copal incenses to the placing of calaveras (or representations of human skulls), sometimes in the form of sugary alfeñiques, at the centre of a worship. Also, in the film, there are instances of typical colonial Baroque churches and alters, and Aztec-like buildings – for those observant enough to notice. Even Miguel’s stray dog called Dante is purely Mexican as it is of a Xoloitzcuintle breed.

Secondly, the animation touches upon a number of different themes, such as the importance of following one’s dream, but none more important here than the importance of one’s family, its history and tradition. Miguel is determined to pursue a musical career, but he also wants to respect, honour and please his family, and that dilemma is uncomfortable for him. In Coco, when there is no one left in the world who remembers a person passed away, that dead person disappears forever, and such rules in the film are like a call for all of us, the living, to stop and remember those who once were alive. The film is about cherishing the stories of others, be it the story of Miguel’s family or the tale about the rise to fame of Ernesto de la Cruz.

Story-wise, Coco also exceeds all expectations. It is true that there are similarities between Coco and The Book of Life (it is now an established plagiarism controversy), but there are instances of Coco in many other previous Disney/Pixar work. A theme of a family curse with a forbidden object attached can be linked to Sleeping Beauty (1959); the breaking of family traditions to forge one’s own destiny has sure parallels with Mulan (1998); and nostalgia for the past fused with mistaken perceptions seems to have been lifted straight off Toy Story 2 (1999). Incidentally, Coco also has some parallels with Back to the Future (1985), in a way its main protagonist rewrites the history and makes drastic changes which affect the current perceptions of people when he goes back.

The story unfolding in Coco is “a roller-coaster” of emotions and surprises. Once Miguel enters the Land of the Dead, he meets Hector, a certain trickster who makes a deal with him that he would find him Ernesto de La Cruz (Miguel needs a blessing from Ernesto to go back to the world of the living), and, in turn, Miguel would put Hector’s photo up somewhere in real life, so Hector could be remembered and not disappear. Fun is guaranteed when Hector misplaces his bones or when Dante gets too excited about something, but there are also witty one-liners throughout the film, such as when dead Ernesto says to living Miguel: “It has been an honour. I hope you will die real soon…You know what I mean.” Then, Miguel meets such memorable characters as Chicharrón and even Frida Kahlo, the most famous Mexican artist. Also, at the customs place between the border of the living and dead, a lot of observational comedy happens, as so often the case in Zootopia (2016).

Half-way through the film, the story slides dangerously close to being manipulative and predictable, and becomes a bit too complicated. Firstly, Miguel has to find Ernesto to get his blessing to return back to the living with the condition that he can practice music. Miguel does not want to be stuck in the Land of the Dead forever and his time is running out. But then, Miguel also needs to find a guitar to perform at a plaza in the Land of the Dead because the winner gets to perform for Ernesto and that it the only entry ticket to his mansion. There are just too many loose ends and different motivations, even discounting Hector’s story. However, just when you think that the story may hit a plateau in terms of excitement, something else happens – an amazing twist, and something dark enters the film, providing sufficient intrigue. 

Coco is a great story with important messages, stunning visuals, adorable characters and memorable songs. If you add to all of this a twist and a tear-jerking finale, it then becomes truly unmissable. The story feels both very personal and very universal, and because it is so relatable, it sure is on the path to becoming an animated classic.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. I really liked it, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keith says:

    Big score! I’ve heard so many good things about Coco but I’ve yet to see it. I need to remedy that. It looks like a sure-thing come Oscar night.


    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      I’d be surprised if it does not bag an Oscar, but then the Academy may feel like doing something different and go for innovative Loving Vincent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. joliesattic says:

    Neat! I’ve not seen it yet. Looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice review! I thought it was Pixar’s best in years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      I am glad you liked it too. It was unbelievably good.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. sara says:

    Hello there! 😀
    Your blog is so interesting! I couldn’t keep myself from commenting 
    Anyways, I totally agree with you on the point about Mexican culture. The visuals and magnificent use of colours really contribute to a vivid atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thanks for commenting! The visuals were just one of a kind in “Coco”. I am very glad you agree.


      1. Sara says:

        You are welcome 🙂


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