Disney Pixar’s newest film, Coco, was slated to come out on November 22, and my local theater started showing it the evening of the 21st. With no school on the 22nd, I figured why not take the kid to a late movie—and then write a review to tell you all about it. Would you believe I woke up with a migraine on the big day? But I took (lots of) medicine and soldiered on for my family and for you, Dear Readers. This movie was so good that I forgot my migraine. That’s really saying a lot. Of course, I have more to say, so here’s my movie review of Coco.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why Disney was choosing to release a film that centers on Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) for Thanksgiving. The actual holiday occurs at the end of October. I thought maybe they were trying to honor the fact that Día de los Muertos is not Mexican Halloween, as sugar skulls and other traditional decorations have made their way into that American holiday. Then I read an interview with the some of the folks behind the movie. They emphasized that Coco is all about family and the power of telling family stories. This is both a part of the winter holidays in America and an important theme throughout the film.
Another thing I really appreciated is that, as Disney did with Moana, Disney Pixar sought to honor—not appropriate—the culture in which the film was set. The cast is Latino, and many of the “behind the scenes” crew members are, too. During the production of Coco, crew members journeyed to Oaxaca, Mexico to observe the traditions of Día de los Muertos first-hand.
The film is centered around a 12-year-old music lover named Miguel. His family has a ban on music and his abuela (grandmother) is incredibly passionate about maintaining it. On Día de los Muertos, Miguel gets in a fight with his family over his love of music, which ultimately leads to him visiting the Land of the Dead. Once there, he meets up with a character named Héctor. Together they navigate the Land of the Dead to find Miguel’s hero, Ernesto de la Cruz. Now, this is my take on the movie. When I asked my six-year-old what it was about she said, “It was about dead people, where they went after they were dead.” Mmm-kay.
Common Sense Media suggests this movie for ages seven and up, and I’m inclined to agree. While there are definitely “scenes of peril”—some of which are dark—I’m agreeing with CSM because I don’t know how much a younger child can really get out of the story on a first viewing. My daughter is familiar with Día de los Muertos courtesy of Elena of Avalor and her Spanish class, but still only got “dead people” out of the movie. However, when I asked her what she thought of the movie, she emphatically declared, “It. Was. Awesome.” I really enjoyed the movie. And I totally cried. Several times. Thank you, Pixar.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t also tell you that the newest Frozen short, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, plays before Coco starts. This “short” was so long (21 minutes!) that my daughter asked, “Was that the movie?” when it was over. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy most of the music, but the end was incredibly touching. (I cried.) Your Frozen fans will be enchanted.
Anyway, go see this film! And do it while you can see it in theaters, because the gorgeous and detailed animation—especially the Land of the Dead—demands to be seen on the big screen.