HOLLYWOOD—There are those rare occasions where you have those animated films that are not only entertaining, but informative and tug at the heartstrings. The last time such a movie did that was “Toy Story” which really took a lens to the notion of growing up and becoming an adult. As a kid, we never think about it, but when we reach that age of no turning back it changes everything. Pixar’s latest outing isn’t “Toy Story” to say the least, but it is indeed a movie that highlights the importance of family and one’s journey to reassurance and not being afraid to pursue one’s passion.
For those not in the know, “Coco” puts a lens on the importance of the Mexican holiday ‘Day of the Dead.’ No, it’s not about all things scary, and I have a bit of knowledge about the importance of the holiday from my studies as a Spanish student as an undergraduate. The holiday is a time when Mexicans pay tribute to friends and family who have passed away. The holiday is also known as Dia de Los Muertos (which I’m a bit more familiar with).
At the core of the narrative, “Coco” follows Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez), a teen who has aspirations of being a musician. However, his great-great grandmother Imelda (voice of Alanna Ubach) has banned all music in the family, after her husband left her and her daughter Coco (voice of Ana Ofelia Murguia). When Miguel attempts to enter a talent show, his grandmother, Abuelita Elena Rivera (voice of Renee Victor) destroys his guitar. I kind of love this element of the movie because it highlights an important dynamic in many families’ regardless of ethnicity and culture. Parents tend to at times live vicariously through their children or members of their family, and prohibit some from chasing after their dreams because a fear of failure similar to what they endured.
Miguel is grappling with that demon, which takes him on a journey to learn a bit about his heritage as he suspects he may be related to one of the greatest musicians in his hometown of Santa Cecilia, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Upon entering Cruz’s mausoleum, Miguel steals that infamous guitar and finds himself transported to a place and time where he is able to communicate with relatives of the dead. “Coco” really dives deep into a psychology of the bonds that family share. Is it a bit deep for a child to truly understand what is unfolding? Yes, but for the adults who are without a doubt sitting in a theater seat, it’s a treat to see the narrative unfold.
Is it far-fetched? Yes, but Miguel with the assistance of his pal Hector (voice of Gael Garcia Bernal) travel throughout the land of the dead as he attempts to allow Imelda to cross over, prevent himself from becoming a member of the ‘dead’ and restore his family’s name. As adults, many of us have no notion about our family history, and as we talk to relatives a bit older and who lived at a time that we didn’t we learn things about our familial history and the world that we didn’t know. I’ve witnessed this first hand with the recent passing of my grandmother and hearing stories from my grandfather about the first time they met in the 1920s and how he fought in World War II and the psychological torture those days in war had on him.
“Coco” is a movie that really resonates as a film that is not just about entertaining, but educating audiences about the importance of Dia de Los Muertos, the bond of family, letting go of past hurt and not being afraid to pursue one’s dreams even when the odds seem against you. This film has heart, plenty of laughs, fun animation and a tale that is riveting to watch. If you’re looking for a film not only to entertain the kids, but teach them a bit about holding onto and passing the torch of family memories, look no further than “Coco.” It’s a true gem that will inevitably be a classic as years pass by.