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Coco by Michael Giacchino [Songs by Kristin Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Germaine Franco & Adrian Molina] (Review)

posted Dec 5, 2017, 3:26 PM by Kaya Savas

Michael Giacchino continues his amazing streak with Pixar in their latest film, Coco. Coco is a story that follows Miguel who is in love with music, but he's growing up in a family that blames music for issues in the past thinking that music brings bad luck. The whole story uses the mythology and beliefs surrounding Día de Muertos in Mexican culture. Miguel’s journey takes him to the afterlife where he learns about his family history and the importance of staying true to himself. The film has a lot of different plot elements and actually some great twists, so if you haven’t seen it please refrain from continuing on with this analysis as we’re about to enter SPOILER TERRITORY.

While Coco has songs, it’s not a musical. The songs in the film are that of Ernesto de la Cruz, the late musician that Miguel looks up to. Ernesto is a giant celebrity and his legacy that he left behind is immense and is what inspires Miguel, and Miguel believes he is his great-great grandfather. The first act of the score is dedicated to really fleshing out the world, Miguel and his family. Giacchino does a wonderful job of incorporating traditional Mexican sounds and rhythms into his style to make the score feel as authentic as possible. The best part is that it doesn’t mask Giacchino’s own style, so there is a strong central voice in the music throughout. The first two acts are filled with a lot of world-building and adding atmosphere. The music keeps its fun vibes almost all the way to the big reveal.

The big reveal of course is that Ernesto de la Cruz is a fraud who murdered his partner and true writer of the songs that made him famous. I know, it got dark really fast didn’t it? Ernesto’s entire legacy is a lie, and the real writer of the songs is actually Héctor who has been trying to cross back into the world of the living to help save his memory. If no one remembers you in the land of the living, you fade permanently. Then second bombshell! Ernesto is not really related to Miguel, but Héctor is!

So while the plot has a lot of moving parts, we come to a resolution where we learn the importance of family throughout the generations and how we really do keep the memory of those who have gone in us. Giacchino handles the third act extremely well, and this is where the score shines the most. We are hit with scenes that are scored with such precision and a light-handed approach that accents the story just right. The reprise of “Remember Me” fits right in and never steals the spotlight away from what the score is doing as well. Coco’s central theme is also a great anchor point for what makes everything tie together.

While the first two acts focus heavily on plot and action, it’s the third act that finally packs the emotional punch you expect from Giacchino. Coco’s plot is not as straight-forward as you might think, so the score is actually doing a lot of work to set the stage for the big reveals in the film. This is another fine score from Giacchino who got to explore with some different sounds and instrumentation that he normally wouldn’t be using, and the whole journey is definitely one worth taking. Also be sure to look for Giacchino’s cameo in the film if you missed it!