4.5 out of 5 Stars
When I heard this movie was coming out, I was really excited to see it. My son’s class had studied the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in school where he learned about the history of this very important day and why it is celebrated. I was curious how Disney/Pixar would come at this because even though they always have the best intentions, some times things don’t go as planned. Seeing the previews I thought the film looked like something we would enjoy. After seeing it last night I feel like they hit it out of the park!
The story is about a 12-year old boy called Miguel who has a passion for music, but it has been banned from his family ever since his great-great-grandfather left his family to pursue his own musical dreams. After her husband leaves, Mama Imelda (Miguel’s great-great-grandmother) learns to make shoes and it becomes a family business that is passed down from generation to generation. She bans all music from their lives in an attempt to forget her missing husband. Miguel loves his family and respects their business but doesn’t want to be a shoe maker and wants to pursue his dreams of being a musician, despite the ban of music that has been passed down through the generations.
On Dia de los Muertos Miguel decides to follow his dream and go to the town plaza to play in the annual music competition. His grandmother learns of his plans and smashes his homemade guitar. She tells him he needs to stay to honor the family that came before him in their celebration and there will be no music. He doesn’t really understand why their tradition is so important and he is a good kid but his dreams feel so much more important in that moment. He runs off and tries to borrow a guitar in the plaza so he can compete, but nobody will give him one. He remembers there is a guitar hanging in the tomb of their town’s most famous musician and Miguel’s idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. When he goes to borrows the guitar something magical happens – he starts seeing skeletons. Luckily his family finds him, which is a little shocking at first because they are skeletons too. They work to send him back to the Land of the Living from the Land of the Dead. While straddling the two worlds Miguel learns why they celebrate this very important day. He learns why remembering people is so important and he works hard to help his beloved great-grandmother Coco to remember the things she has forgotten. And he learns about forgiveness.
This movie is so so full of love and color and passion. I appreciated how they explained the celebration and why it is important to people of Mexico. The message of family, hard work and love is so strong. There is also a message of finding a way to follow your passion and if you want it you have to make it happen (although hopefully your choices will be good ones and not ones that are wrong!).
The attention to detail throughout the film is incredible. When you watch various people in the movie play the guitar it is like watching a real person play. The filmmakers did their best to replicate how the fingers move and the positions they take. Attention to detail went beyond that – there is an introduction to famous Mexican heroes like Frida Kaldo and both worlds were inspired by real places the team traveled to throughout Mexico. Filmmakers collaborated with a team of cultural consultants, including political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, playwright Octavio Solis and heritage and arts author, independent producer and advocate Marcela Davison Avilés. These consultants, whose families all hail from Mexico, weighed in on everything from character wardrobe and sets décor to the color palette and even dialogue—encouraging a fluid blend of Spanish and English within the script in a way that required no translation. There is a long list of families in my press materials that helped with all of this as well and I felt like the film was done in such a magical yet culturally respectful way. You could really feel like this family could live next door. Or be your family.
While this movie is really heart-warming there is a lot of humor too. The street dog, Dante, who Miguel befriends is hilarious and reminds me a lot of the chicken in Moana. He doesn’t seem all that intelligent, will eat nearly everything, but is a loyal friend and travel companion. He might not be family, but he becomes family by the end of the film and proves that he loves as hard as Miguel. There are other fun jokes and Hector is quite a character – beloved and silly all at the same time.
The voice talent in the movie is fantastic. Miguel is voiced by Anthony Gonzalez and he is wonderful. He has been playing mariachi since he was 4 years old and lends his voice to the songs his character sings. Also in the Land of the Living we have the voices of Renée Victor, Jaime Camil, and Ana Ofelia Murguía playing various family members. In the Land of the Dead you will recognize Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz and Gael García Bernal as Hector. Other amazing voices in this world include Alanna Ubach, Alfonso Arau, and Herbert Siguenza.
My husband doesn’t really love movies that have a lot of music in them, but he felt like this had just the right amount and really loved the story line, even if it was a little bit predictable. Our son really loved it too and says all of the kids should see this. The directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina bring a really beautiful film to us and I highly recommend seeing this one with your family. I will be honest, I was thinking after the film that it would be lovely to find a way to celebrate the people that have gone before us in my own family. Those who inspired us and lead us to be the people that we have grown to be. If you stay through the credits you will see pictures of the people that inspired all of the people involved in this film.
In that spirit I will share a person who came before me and inspired me to be the person I am. She was my grandma. She was my champion and my cheerleader. She supported me in all of my crazy adventures and ideas. In her eyes I could do anything. She inspired my travels and the type of mother I wanted to be. She was big squishy hugs and a ear to listen. She smelled like baking and tea. She always gave loving advice that I might not have liked at the time but eventually took and she was so strong. I miss her every day.
Go check this movie out and remember those who were important to you!
The movie opens to the general public tomorrow, 22 November 2017! Here is the latest trailer to get you excited!
Disclaimer: I was given free admission to this movie. All opinions are my own and I was not required to leave a positive review. All images were used with permission. © Disney. All rights reserved.