Review Date: 1/9/18
Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Benjamin Bratt
Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a young boy who comes from a family that hates music. But music flows through his soul and he secretly learns how to play guitar while idolizing the great Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Inevitably, his family finds out, and the ensuing argument leaves him with a broken heart and a broken guitar. On the eve of Dia De Los Muertos, he runs away from home and an attempt to steal Ernesto's legendary guitar transports him to the Land Of The Dead. Naturally, a living boy in the Land Of The Dead is cause for panic, and he has to find his way back home before sunrise or else he'll become a permanent resident. Miguel is convinced that only Ernesto can send him home, but the beloved musician isn't everything that he's been made out to be.
I initially avoided seeing this film because Entertainment Weekly called it "devastatingly sentimental," and being an overly sensitive person, I did not relish the idea of crying through the entire film. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as brutal as I was afraid it was going to be, and I managed to make it through with only one tissue. The animation is astounding and the film is breathtaking to look at. The skeleton figures of the Land Of The Dead are charming and full of character, and my favorite was the spirit guide Papita, who is a giant flying cat. The film is ablaze with bright colors and the music is lovely. Miguel is a likable protagonist, and his adolescent frustration is easy to relate to. To its credit, the story has a few unpredictable twists, but they're also difficult to reconcile. Things do get overly weepy towards the end, but that's not unexpected. While it's a delightful animated film, its biggest accomplishment may be how it so fully and respectfully embraces Mexican culture, and how important it is to honor and remember those who have passed on.