By Amy Rudolph
As millennials get older, the movie industry tries to keep up. This is why DC and Marvel movies have targeted our demographic, and romantic comedies now feature actors that we grew up watching as children. Disney has kept up with our age group while still producing kid-friendly entertainment.
I grew up watching “Toy Story” (1995) so much the VHS tape broke. I remember every substitute teacher in elementary and middle school popping in “Finding Nemo” (2001) and watching the sequel a year after graduation.
Over Thanksgiving break, I found myself in Washington, DC looking for something to do, and decided to see if “Coco,” the newest Pixar film, would live up to my high Disney lover standards. From the blurbs and trailers I had seen, I wasn’t that enthused. I thought it would be like “Frozen,” a movie I continuously refuse to see because it tries too hard to push a message down the audience’s throat. Having heard that “Coco” was all about learning the importance of family, I scoffed that it would be the same old, same old.
Thankfully, I was wrong. “Coco” tells the story of a young boy, Miguel, and his family preparing for Día de los Muertos in his tiny Mexican village. The first part is very simplistic, but representatively accurate of Mexican architecture, culture, and values in both the imagery and the conflicts.
Miguel loves music and just wants to be like his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel’s family forbids him to play or listen to music due to his great-great grandmother Mamá Imelda’s strict opposition to it that was passed down the family after her death. Miguel ignores his family’s objections and just wishes that they would support him doing something he loves.
In a strange turn of events, Miguel finds himself in the land of the dead. He runs into his family members who are skeletons, but he recognizes them from his family’s ofrenda, a kind of shrine for Díaz de los Muertos in which family members are remembered after their deaths. He meets his Mamá Imelda, who tells him he cannot understand why music is so wrong but to trust her because she is his family and she only wants the best for him.
In his attempts to find a family member to give him their blessing to pursue music and return to the world of the living, he meets a trickster named Hector he seems self-centered but in true Disney fashion, never judge a book by its cover. He also meets Mexican historical figures like Frida Kahlo. “Coco” also shows American audiences accurate representations of Mexican culture in a fun and whimsical way from spirit guides to traditional practices. The use of Spanish intermingled with the primarily English dialogue gives added appreciation to the Latino community and stories that are being told.
The film has a soundtrack that features a variety of Mexican traditional genres and is recorded by an all-Latino cast, a must for director Lee Unkrich, who also directed “Toy Story.” Unkirch and Pixar’s production teams kept true to their craft and created a visually rich and dynamic film that leaves children, parents, and kids-at-heart astounded that such feats are possible. The clip of the designers before the film gives audiences a greater appreciation for the painstaking work that goes into a production of this magnitude.
While adult audiences can still see the obvious message the film is trying to convey, it is not overdone and tugs on just enough heart strings. Viewers of left thinking about calling their mom and telling her how much she means to them but also find themselves with catchy original songs like “Un Poco Loco” stuck in their head as they try to find ways to download the soundtrack.
“Coco” beat out most other films in the Thanksgiving box office and it is easy to see why. Given its success, any other Disney-Pixar fans looking to decompress after finals can find refuge in theaters with “Coco.”