The World Es Mi Familia

CocoSPOILERS! It seems like, whenever someone wants to make a movie about Mexican culture, they gravitate toward Dia de Muertos, which I guess makes sense. Although different in many ways, Fox’s The Book of Life had some similar themes. The main character in this film is Miguel Rivera, a boy from a family of shoemakers who’s obsessed with music, particularly that of musician and actor Ernesto de la Cruz.

The problem is that, after Miguel’s great-grandfather left his family to go on the road as a traveling musician, his wife bans all music in the household, which seems rather draconian. It sticks even after she dies, though, so Miguel has to learn guitar in secret by watching De la Cruz’s old movies. When his grandmother finds out about this, she smashes his guitar like it’s the end of a Who concert. Based on a photograph with the head cut off, he suspects Ernesto himself was his great-grandfather. He tries to borrow Ernesto’s guitar from his mausoleum, and is punished by being transported to the Land of the Dead, a bizarre and colorful place inhabited by skeletons and spirit creatures.

He meets some of his late relatives, and learns that he can return home if one of them gives him their blessing, but his great-great-grandmother refuses to do so unless he promises to give up music. He goes to look for Ernesto instead, figuring that his blessing would also work. Along the way, he meets up with a skeleton named Hector, who plays tricks and dresses in costumes in an attempt to visit the world of the living and see his daughter again, as she’s old and is forgetting him, and the forgotten dead fade away entirely. As his picture isn’t up on anyone’s ofrenda, however, he’s stuck in the Land of the Dead. He claims to have known Ernesto, which turns out to actually be true. In fact, he wrote all of Ernesto’s songs, and eventually remembers that Ernesto poisoned him so he could take all the credit for himself. Part of how he puts this together is that it was reenacted in one of Ernesto’s movies, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I have heard conspiracy theories about people hiding clues to their own misdeeds in their creative work. It’s pretty similar to Up, in that the protagonist’s idol turns out to be a creep. Really, it’s kind of a Pixar cliché to have villains who seem nice at first. Ernesto’s motivation to kill his best friend isn’t really that clear, but this is probably one of those cases where I expect fiction to make more sense than real life, as I’m sure there are plenty of actual murders motivated entirely by money and fame. Miguel learns that Hector, not Ernesto, is his great-great-grandfather, and when returns to the land of the living, he plays his great-grandmother Coco (so there’s where the title comes in) the song Hector wrote for her when she was three, which was also Ernesto’s biggest hit.

It turns out that she’s kept not only a picture of him, but letters that prove that Hector wrote Ernesto’s songs. Hector is reunited with his estranged wife, Mama Imelda, and can cross over to the world of the living the following year. While there are a few plot holes, I think it’s a really good movie. It’s well-designed and quite emotional, with a good dose of humor while still remaining coherent in its treatment of the dead.

This entry was posted in Cartoons, Conspiracy Theories, Ethnicity, Families, Holidays, Music, Relationships, Revisiting Disney, VoVat Goes to the Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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