With winter break now at the halfway point and frigid cold weather keeping us trapped inside, today I joined approximately every other parent in northeastern Connecticut in a trip to the cinema, a matinee showing of the new Disney/Pixar film Coco.
Like every other animated film that parents don’t hate, it was apparent from the opening sequence that this film had been made with us in mind. That like UP, Zootopia and the Toy Story films, Pixar was aiming higher than a few mindless hours of occupied children and potential toy and merchandising sales. This wasn’t just an extended version of something just as easily seen on television for free at any given time, it was an actual movie. Depending on your perspective, two movies.
*Warning : spoilers ahead*
The movie she saw:
The Coco that my daughter really enjoyed was the story of Miguel, a young boy that lives with his extended family of shoemakers but secretly longs for the life of a mariachi. Alone in the family attic the boy harbors a love of music and guitar playing that has been banned from his household after his great-great-grandfather abandoned the family to pursue his own musical ambitions.
In typical Disney fashion he disobeys his elders, running off on Dia de Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, finding himself cursed and trapped in the Land of the Dead, searching for an ancestor to give him their blessing and return him to the Land of the Living. There is a funny dog sidekick, lots of songs, and not very scary skeletons representing the dead. After a bunch of adventures he finds his way home, his family once again embraces music and there are no consequences for his disobedience.
The movie I saw:
The Coco that I was surprised by was the tragic story of Hector, a singer/songwriter that was murdered while attempting to return to his wife and small daughter, the titular Coco. Hector longs to be able to visit the Land of the Living on Dia de Muertes but has been written out of his family’s history and now remembered only by his daughter, now elderly and suffering from dementia.
Hector meets a stranded young boy trapped in The Land of the Dead and enlists his help in crossing the veil see her one last time before she forgets him completely and he suffers the “last death” that would result from his legacy being erased from The Land of the Living. I won’t spoil the ending of Hector’s story other than to say it ends with redemption, but judging by the amount of sniffling I heard in the full capacity theater, I wasn’t the only one there that was watching this version.
This is one of the best kid’s movies that I’ve seen in a long time, and I saw a bunch this year. If you’re on the fence or need something to do before you’re kid drives you insane this week, I highly recommend it, just get there early. Our showing was packed.