Coco’s Carnival of Souls Hits the Right Chords

Disney/Pixar goes to Mexico, winningly.

A few quick notes on Disney/Pixar’s Coco: There’s hardly any violence. And there’s no sex, either. It’s a sweet tale for families with little children. Friendly, recognizable ghosts and skeletons aplenty, because the story of little Miguel Rivera (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) takes him from his family’s shoe shop all the way to the Land of the Dead on All Saints’ Day, where he gets in touch with deceased relatives. Miguel’s quest is theoretically about asserting himself as a musician despite opposition — his abuelita Elena (Renée Victor) has forbidden music in the family due to a disgraceful betrayal long ago. But among the muertos everyone sings and dances, and the parties are glorious.

Disney, of course, has been assiduously covering each and every ethnic culture in the world for its animated extravaganzas, from African to Native American, Chinese, Arabic, French, Indian, and Anywheresville, USA. So, it’s understandable, and probably long overdue, for them to present a Mexican-themed feature that delves into ofrendas, homenajes, and antepasados in traditional Mexican folklore. On his dreamlike trip to that other Magic Kingdom — a hyper-busy, blazingly colorful carnival of souls — Miguel meets departed pop-music hero Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Miguel’s own Mamá Imelda (Alanna Ubach), and a curious, herky-jerky guy named Hector (Gael García Bernal), who seems to know everything Miguel does. The songs, especially “Un Poco Loco,” “La Llorana,” and “Recuerdame,” are better than we expected.

The lessons Miguel absorbs are the classics: Our ancestors are always among us. There’s no place like home. Be true to yourself, but don’t go poisoning other people just to satisfy your ambitions. Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, helped out by writers Jason Katz and Matthew Aldrich and a full-size city of technicians and crew, hit the right chords, gracefully.

Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina. Now playing.

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