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Movie review: Pixar's 'Coco' will turn the hearts of the children to their fathers
When aspiring musician Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) finds himself in the Land of the Dead, all he needs to return to the Land of the Living is a blessing from a family member, a magical marigold petal and a promise hes not sure he can make. Coco opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017. - photo by Josh Terry
COCO 3 stars Voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor; PG (thematic elements); in general release

While so many films build around a characters personal quest to chase dreams, Coco takes a different angle, one that will ring especially true to anyone who has ever heard the reference about the hearts of the children turning to their fathers, and vice versa. Coco isnt just family friendly its family-centric.

The plot follows the story of Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a Mexican boy who travels to the Land of the Dead in search of a long-lost ancestor. Miguel aspires to be a musician, but unfortunately he comes from a family of shoemakers who despise music. A few generations earlier, Miguels great-great-grandfather left his family to pursue a music career, and his progeny have been trying to erase him from their bitter history ever since. Only Miguels great-grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) remembers him, and her memory is fading fast.

Caught between his dreams and his loyalty to his family, Miguel tries to pursue the former on the sly while keeping the latter out of the loop. But when his domineering grandmother discovers his guitar and smashes it, Miguel finds himself without an instrument and no way to compete in an upcoming talent show in the nearby Mariachi Square.

So, on a dark evening during the annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival, Miguel steals into the crypt of the towns legendary mariachi Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), hoping to nab the icons celebrated guitar from its shrine. But as Miguel hits his first chord, the instrument transports him to the Land of the Dead.

To return home, Miguel has to receive the blessing of an ancestor, but all the boys ancestors are angry about his musical aspirations and refuse to send him back unless he promises to give up his dreams. So Miguel decides to seek out the one ancestor who might be a little more sympathetic to his plight: the great-great-grandfather who started the bad blood in the first place.

Coco becomes a colorful and entertaining journey through both the Land of the Dead and the rich cultural tradition surrounding the Mexican Dia de los Muertos holiday. Along the way, Miguel meets a ghost named Hctor (Gael Garca Bernal), who helps the boy understand that to remain in the Land of the Dead, you must have someone in the Land of the Living who remembers you (and makes sure your image is preserved in the customary Ofrendas that are used for the holiday). Once that connection is broken, forgotten ancestors fade even from their postmortal existence.

True to Pixar form, Coco enhances its strong storytelling with brilliant visuals that inspire the imagination and, in this case, celebrate the Mexican culture. Coco is a wonderful film to see and experience, and in a year that has felt so mediocre in terms of family animation offerings, its an easy recommendation, even if it doesnt quite reach the level of recent Pixar efforts such as Inside Out.

Coco is rated PG for thematic elements; running time: 109 minutes.
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