Coco: Joyous celebration of life and death

In this image released by Disney-Pixar, character Hector, voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal, left, and Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, appear in a scene from the animated film, “Coco.” (Disney-Pixar via AP)

Death.  It’s a pretty tough subject for many film goers to deal with but one that is presented tenderly—and with a mix of mirth—in Disney/Pixar’s “Coco.”

What is troubling is that many people are incredibly uncomfortable even broaching the subject of death (or dying) as there are as many interpretations of an afterlife as there are people around our globe.

It can range from believing that when life ends, we all fade immediately to black … to a glorious destiny of humanity to enter the Celestial Kingdom of a loving Heavenly Father.

One such recent version of managing death is a film most of us, Dear Reader, had to suffer through with a near unending angst of “if there is an afterlife and should I reanimate the long dead” in the painfully dreadful “Justice League” (reviewed last week), where the implications of bringing a super “man” back to life, many months after the body has long returned to the earth, are not even discussed.

But in “Coco,” these topics certainly are presented and just like the ground breaking fantasy/comedy “Inside Out” (in 2015) peered into the inner mind of a teenage girl, this time the world of the spirits is in full bloom.

In “Coco,” we are introduced to 12-year-old Miguel Riviera (Anthony Gonzalez) who lives in the small (fictional) Mexican village of Santa Cecilia.

This from the official synopsis: “Miguel dreams of becoming a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a popular singer-songwriter and film star who died when he was crushed by a bell in a live concert.

This image released by Disney-Pixar shows characters Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez in a scene from the animated film, “Coco.” (Disney-Pixar via AP)

However, because Miguel’s great-great-grandfather left his family to achieve his musical dreams, his family has banned music for generations.

Because of the ban, the only relative Miguel likes is his great-grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía).

On Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), after Miguel inadvertently damages Mama Imelda’s (Alanna Ubach) ofrenda (a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration) with Miguel’s great-great grandfather’s face ripped out, he finds a bent section of the photo revealing that his great-great grandfather used a guitar similar to De la Cruz’s.

This causes Miguel to believe that he and his family are direct descendants of De la Cruz. So Miguel attempts to participate in a talent contest using a guitar he kept away from his family, when his parents destroy it and he leaves.

Looking for a way to participate in the talent contest, Miguel infiltrates De la Cruz’s mausoleum to steal his guitar and use it in the contest.

However, once he takes hold of the guitar and strums a few notes, he instantly becomes a ghost himself but one that is unable to be seen or heard by the living except for Dante, the neighborhood street dog.

While in the cemetery, Miguel meets his skeleton deceased relatives who are surprised that Miguel can see them and is there with them.

They believe this is related to Imelda’s inability to cross to “the other side” and they take Miguel to Land of the Dead, an afterlife dimension where the deceased people come to visit their relatives on Día de Muertos.”

This image released by Disney-Pixar shows a scene from the animated film, “Coco.” (Disney•Pixar via AP)

There is no question that “Coco” is sparkling entertainment for the entire family to enjoy. Fear and trepidation about the afterlife is handled with great care and respect although Dante purposely gets all the laughs.

When I was a young boy, my family had a “Dante.” His name was “Monsieur Cognac”—a French poodle and Afghan hound mix. Cognac was completely insane and just like Dante in “Coco,” was a walking/running ball of energy.

It’s great fun to see the Disney/Pixar take on the joy of being dead. Sorry, no slouching zombies here.

Instead “Coco” is filled with passion of music and the celebration of loved ones now departed as their memories live on. Within all of us! “Coco” is another in a seemingly endless number of classic Disney/Pixar animations.

Less than “Toy Story” but far more than “Finding Dory,” “Coco” is a joyous celebration of life—and death—and rests comfortably somewhere in between.

And “Coco” is in good directorial hands with Lee Unkrich (the director of “Toy Story 2”) and Adrian Molina (the writer of “The Good Dinosaur”) teaming up with the story by Unkrich, Molina and Jason Katz (animator of “A Bug’s Life”).

It’s all in the family over at Disney/Pixar and why not? These folks are on a role and “Coco” continues their impressive run. Forget about the dreary resurrection of a dead superhero … never underestimate the power of music and fly over to your nearest Cineplex and enjoy a positive slide of afterlife “heaven” in “Coco.”

Questions, comments or travel suggestions, write me at [email protected]

TAGS: death, dream, family, film, his, music, musical, people, Santa
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