COCO is the crazy new animated movie from Disney/Pixar. It’s the story of a young boy named Miguel whose family doesn’t allow music. You are told right away that his great great grandfather left the family to go be a musician. He is never spoken of again and music is not allowed anymore. But Miguel secretly loves music and dreams of being a great musician. Things come to a head on the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos, Mexico’s cultural celebration of All Souls Day). Through a chain of events Miguel suddenly finds himself on the other side with all the dead people. He has to find a way to get home, and more importantly, discover the hidden secrets of his family history.
I was not expecting to like this film. While I love Pixar, many of their recent movies have been sequels (Monsters University, Finding Dory, Cars 3) or uninspiring originals (The Good Dinosaur, Brave). A movie about the dead was bound to have theological and cultural problems, and likely to not be a good story.
It would be hard for me to exaggerate how much I LOVED this movie. This movie hits it out of the park. Culturally this movie feels like Mexico. It’s so good, in fact, that it will be a challenge for white Americans to comprehend. It presents family and tradition and music in ways that are more Mexican than American. The whole Day of the Dead is completely foreign to American sensibilities. I can’t believe studio executives approved a movie like this. It’s strange, but in good ways that totally challenge American cultural assumptions.
This movie is accurately rated at PG. It includes some heavy themes about betrayal, holding grudges, murder, death, and the afterlife. It features lots of skeletons and some excellent plot twists. Kids need to be older, probably in the 7-9 range, to have enough maturity to follow this movie. It’s a good story and a fun ride. I doesn’t get too dark or heavy except when it needs to. And it carries some real emotional weight.
Theologically the movie doesn’t accurately present what happens to dead people. But it teaches some extremely important truths. It shows that the dead are real and really connected with us, and it’s important for us to stay connected to them. You see a dead person still trying to get home in order to tell someone special that he loves them. It talks about justice for the dead and reconciliation. It conveys how the old can teach the young and the young can teach the old. It talks about the effect of passing on blessings, and grudges, through generations. It talks about family and tradition and how music and ritual help us remember and stay connected. Don’t underestimate an animated movie. This is Pixar at it’s best. I laughed. I cried. It changed me. You’ll have to see it for yourself to appreciate just how good this movie is.