My opinion right after watching the movie
My opinion right after watching the movie is that it’s between good and great. I don’t know if that really makes much sense, but that is how I feel. The setting, atmosphere, and the cinematography is great, but the characters and story are good. I got really invested in the movie right from the beginning, but maybe it’s because I watched the film after all of the hype. It’s a nice film that envelops on Mexican culture, and in that aspect, I really respect the film, but I only think the plot and characters itself are good.
The concept of the film was created by Lee Unkrich after Toy Story 3 was released in 2010. It was going to be about a grieving american child learning about mexican culture after his mother’s death, but they realized that the child should be mexican, and the mourning part was changed to Dia de los Muertos. Of course the crew took several trips to Mexico to define how they should go about animating and executing the characters and story from their initial concept.
The skeletal creatures were difficult to animate, since they had to be sculpted and animated differently than the live humans, since there was no muscular system. Pixar tried to trademark the phrase Dia de los Muertos, which was not received well, and caused a Change.org petition, since mexicans did not like the cultural appropriation going into trademarking. It ended up working, as the request for trademarking was dropped.
The film starts with a narration from our main character named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), who was talking about a family who had a musician as the male provider, who decided to leave and never return, to pursue his music career. The woman decided to ban music from their families, and created a show business to provide for her daughter, which went down for 4 generations to where Miguel is now. The daughter’s daughter, who is also Miguel’s grandmother Elena (Renee Victor) is the matriarch of the family, and is extremely strict about the no music mentality.
The dog ends up ruining a picture that will be used to bring a spirit of the dead over, and Miguel thinks that his great-great grandfather is Ernesto de la Cruz, due to the same guitar in the picture, and all of the videos. Since his grandmother broke his guitar for the fashion show, he decides to steal his great-great grandfather’s guitar, and after he plays it, he soon realizes that humans can walk through him, and no one but the dead sees him. His skeleton relatives soon recognize him, but he hears the news that his great-great grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach) cannot cross over to the living side, and she is FURIOUS. Miguel shows her the picture, and they realize that they family is cursed, but it can easily be corrected if you get the family’s blessing. It has to be done by the morning, so Imelda takes a petal to give him her blessing to go home, to put her picture back, AND TO NEVER PLAY MUSIC AGAIN. He agrees to it, and instantly breaks it, so he is brought back to the deceased world.
When his family refuses to give him their blessing, he decides to run off to go find his great-great grandfather, but ends up bumping into Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who has tried and failed for years to cross over to the land of the living. He tells Miguel that he knows Ernesto, and will take him to him if Miguel takes him to the Land of the Living. Trial and tribulation takes place time and time again to get to Ernesto de la Cruz, since he has a lot of security, and is having a performance at his mansion, but of course they manage to get there. During this time, Miguel is turning more and more into a skeleton, and is trying to find a way to get a guitar to perform at the concert. We get to see what happens when someone is forgotten, as they disappear due to no one living remembering them to tell their stories, and we learn that Hector was a musician.
So Ernesto saves him form drowning, and Miguel tells him all about how his family does not support his quest in music, and knew that Ernesto would. Hector follows them, and asks Ernesto to repay him. We get some history of Hector being his ghostwriter, and leaving to go back to his family, but Ernesto decided to poison him so Hector would not take the songs with him, and give the drink to him in order to make a truce, causing Hector to die right afterwards. Ernesto sends security to put Hector away, and sends Miguel away as well, since he knows that Ernesto was a murderer. Hector talks about how his daughter is forgetting about him, and he sees Miguel’s picture, where they realize that they are family, and Hector’s daughter is Miguel’s great-grandmother (who has amnesia).
His great-great-grandmother comes to fetch them (fetching her ex-husband reluctantly), and things are cleared up because she is told that her husband was trying to get back to her. Their daughter is starting to forget him, so they rush Miguel back home, so he can show his great-grandfather her picture. Everyone in the dead overhears Ernesto admit that he is a fraud, who will do anything to protect his reputation, and ends up getting booed once he returns outside. His fate is that he ends up being trapped in a bell. Miguel is brought to the real world, and ends up realizing that Coco has the picture of her father, and starts singing his song. We go to the epilogue, where during the year, Coco passed away to reunite with her parents, Miguel has a sister, and the living/deceased family members reunite during Dios de la Muertos.
I really do not feel like going in and out to analyze a lot of the characters, since there aren’t many that deserve or get much focus. Miguel is someone who I found annoying for a lot of the film, but the plot twist with who his great-great-grandfather is caused him to be a lot more endearing, and to learn that there is a nasty side to the music business. The great-great-grandfather seemed like a con artist of some sorts, only for it to be revealed that he was the one that was ripped off, only o be forgotten. He was fine enough as well. The musician that Miguel thought was his great-great-grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz ended up being a murderer and thief, being the main villain of the film. I should have expected this to take place, but he was a fine enough villain.
Pixar excels at animation, and it is perplexing in this film, as usual. There are so much details in the background settings, and it amazes me how accurate they elevated mexican landscapes in animated form. All of the bold colours make everything pop up, and even when certain elements are supposed to be dingy, it is done so well. The world of the dead was pretty cool, and the orange walk to the living world is my favorite piece of animation. They even gave the skeletons their own personal touch, and made them unique, compared to skeletons in other animated films. The human designs are fine enough.
The music is really nice. It holds all of the main instrumentals that are found in Latin music, but it’s of course more emphasized, since the music is a major plot point of the film. Some of the songs aren’t really memorable in my opinion, and while it is pleasant, it is an issue, since this is a film about music. I cannot recall a single song.
Reception at Release
The film was released on late October to match the Dia de Muertos holiday, and it became the highest-grossing film EVER in Mexico. It was released on November 22nd, 2017 in most other areas, causing an (as of Christmas Eve) international gross of $325 million, and a domestic gross of $161 million, adding up to a worldwide amount of $486.3 million. It of course reached critical acclaim.
31/40 = 78%