Lately, my four-year-old has been asking some hard questions, perhaps a testament to the times we’re living in: Why do we fight wars? Why do soldiers die? Are you going to die? Does everyone die? We’ve been seeing trailers for Pixar’s Coco for about a year and were anxiously awaiting its release (today!), but given her inquisitiveness, you can imagine my concern.
We were invited to an advance 3D screening of the film, so we drove more than an hour across town and arrived on Mexican time…but they let us in anyway. I don’t know who between my daughter, husband, and I was most excited.
About Pixar’s Coco
Coco is about Miguel, a young boy in the Mexican village of Santa Cecilia. Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Héctor (Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
Why you’ll love it
For me, the most beautiful part of the movie was the universality of the characters. Coco, the bisabuelita (great g’ma) with her stooped posture and deep laugh lines, reminds us of any of our grandmas or great grandmas in their lives’ return to youth. Her daughter, the grandmother, uses all of our grandmothers’ weapon of choice – her chancla (sandal). The young Miguel with his hopeful arched eyebrows and pursed, apprehensive mouth makes him an instant underdog that you want – no, need – to see win in his life’s aspirations. The characters in the movie are our families. Their dreams are our dreams.
The story and culture of Day of the Dead in the movie is robust – not diluted, not overplayed nor white-washed – it’s inspiring and beautiful. Coco made me so proud to be part of such a wonderful tradition and philosophy. I hope it will create a sense of awe and appreciation in others, and with it, a bridge for understanding and tolerance.
The star-studded cast of voices gives richness to the story, the music is anthemic and inspiring, and the voice of young Anthony González as Miguel plays on your heart strings. The textures of the scenery and depth of perception (particularly in 3D) make the movie feel real, though the vibrant colors of the cempazuchitl flowers, alebrije spirit guides (Google it), and altars pull from classic Latin American magical realism, making it dreamy and enchanting. The movie is spectacularly artful. However, unlike other movies that dazzle the eye, but fall short in the story, the plot of Coco is layered, fast-paced, and deeply engaging, even for a toddler.
A toddler’s thoughts…
When we got home from the screening, my daughter pulled a frame with my grandparents’ wedding photo and asked me if they died. “Here we go,” I thought.
“This is your great grandmother, who we see all the time. This was my grandfather, who is with God now.”
“Is he coming back?” she asked.
“That would be nice, wouldn’t it?”
“Did he sing?”
“Yes, he had a nice voice. And he loved music, just like you,” I said.
“I hope he will come back and sing for us.”
Coco is a beautiful story and an intricately woven fabric of our culture as Mexicans, as Mexican-Americans, as musicians, as anyone who loves their family or has a dream. The movie laid a golden pathway of flower petals for an otherwise very difficult conversation with my mini, and helped dissolve her fear and apprehension about the inevitable. It gave me the chance to talk to my daughter about my grandfather and hopefully she will grow up with a sense of familiarity and fondness for him and others who have passed. And our dog will henceforth be referred to as our spirit guide.
From the directors of Toy Story 3 and Monsters University, Disney•Pixar’s Coco opens in U.S. theaters today, Nov. 22, 2017. If you have time this weekend, I can’t recommend going to see Coco highly enough. I want to see it at least a dozen more times, and with a toddler, it’s safe to say we’ll double that.