Disney/Pixar’s latest animated feature, Coco comes out on November 22. My children and I were lucky to be able to preview the movie on November 2nd – Día de Muertos.
The story centers on Miguel who feels an overwhelming call to be a musician despite his family’s weird anti-music stance. Miguel’s idol is a local-made-big musician, Ernesto de la Cruz, who he realizes early on must be the grandfather who abandoned their family two generations ago. In an effort to prove his dreams are legitimate and follow in the footsteps of Ernesto, Miguel embarks on an adventure that takes him to the Land of the Dead. There he meets his ancestors that he has only previously known through stories and a “charming trickster” named Hector. By the end of the story, Miguel learns family secrets and his own priorities while attempting to help Hector and his great grandmother stay in the land of the remembered.
While this film did lead to some interesting questions about faith on our ride home, if you are looking for a deep film about the religious or cultural aspects of Día de Muertos, you may be disappointed. The overriding themes are balancing duty to family with following your dreams.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a quality family film, Coco can be that film – at least with the older kids. My 5-year-old found it all together too scary once the story shifted to the Land of the Dead right up until the end when he was so excited he couldn’t remember to sit still or stay quiet. He also found The Nightmare Before Christmas too scary for the same reasons. That could be a good litmus test for whether you should take a child to the theater for this one.
The 7- and 11-year-olds loved the film from beginning to end. I was pleasantly surprised that I also enjoyed the whole film, and that I didn’t see a twist coming until almost the end.
My biggest problem with this movie is that the story is driven by the plot device of an entire family that disapproves of music as a whole. To enjoy the film, you really have to let that improbability go. It becomes even less probable by the end as you discover that Coco may not have shared her mother’s bitterness, and you wonder why she would have allowed her own family to be subjected to her mother’s animosity.
Coco, who the film is named after, is dismissively portrayed as childlike throughout the film — since she is elderly in the present and a small child in the flashbacks. You just have to wonder why she never had a backbone. The rest of the family, as well, never seems to question the dictates of a long-dead matriarch. There is just no logic to this. Like I said, let it go, and you can enjoy the rest of the movie along with your older kids.
Some people have claimed that this film is a blatant ripoff of the Book of Life, which also portrays the living visiting the land of the dead and a musician whose family disapproves. I think this, and the fact that they are both computer-animated films, is the extent of the similarities. The Book of Life is more mythical in its plot that centers around a love triangle and the interference of gods in mortal lives. Coco is a classic coming of age story.
Watch the trailer below.
Family Fun Ideas to Pair with Coco
You might wonder why this movie that centers around Day of the Dead didn’t come out in October. I know, me too. I was disappointed. However, it opened in Mexico on October 27th. Maybe next year for us.
It could be fun to explore the history of Dia de Muertos as a family. It is celebrated as part of the Christian feast days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd). While many of the customs pre-date European contact they were eventually merged with the corresponding Catholic holidays. I’ve read (and can’t find the reference, sorry) that the practices have grown as a result of political and economic interests. It is a huge tourist holiday for Mexico City.
The Twin Cities offers a few Day of the Dead family celebrations. The Minnesota History Center celebrates each year on the Sunday before November 2nd. Highpoint Center for Printmaking offers a Free Ink Day on the closest Saturday. Also look for celebrations at Midtown Global Market and some parks.
Additional Information: Family Fun: Free Ink Day at Highpoint Center for Printmaking.
If you want something right now, log onto the Official Disney Movie Website to find fun crafts including nail art and a hot chocolate recipe!
I received four press tickets to the preview of this film.