Integrating Mexican culture with rich beautiful visuals, Pixar once again wins big with it’s diversity in storytelling with Coco.
After stuffing myself with thanksgiving dinner, the family and I decided to spend some time at at the silver screen. After sitting through a 23 minute short about Olaf the snowman from Disney’s Frozen refusing to say the word “Christmas”, you could say I lowered my expectations slightly. I wish I could say I was surprised when Coco was not only great, but one of the best films of the year so far. Lee Unkrich (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3) delivers, as Pixar once again proves that it is the currently best in the business at creating original content .
In a time when Hollywood attempts at diversity in all the wrong ways, Coco actually gives the viewer a real look inside a true Mexican tradition. The entire premise of the film surrounds the meaning of family and why we keep traditions so sacred through the eyes of a small Mexican boy in a large family setting. All the the music is original and written to fit the setting and backdrop of the story, and the viewer can learn from a character of a different culture by allowing the film to have its own tone through the use of language and Mexican folklore. Each building and character in the vast world of the dead is given life through the many different layers of colors throughout the film. The detail in CGI is second to none at this point in Pixar’s history.
Miguel, our main character, is a boy in a small city in Mexico growing up in a family of shoemakers. He dreams of one day being a famous musician despite his family shaming the dream due to his great grandfather leaving his family to poverty after becoming a famous Mariachi and Movie star. After attempting to steal his great grandfather’s guitar on the the Day of the Dead and disrupting the spirit realm, he is trapped in land of the dead as he tries to gain back his family’s blessing and return home.
Each year on Dia de los Muertos, each family is to put up pictures of their lost loved ones in rememberance so that on that day they might cross over to the living to visit with them once more. If no one puts the picture up, that particular family member cannot come over to the other side. While Miguel is lost in the land of the dead, he is guided by Hector voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel) to help him find his long lost great grandfather. Hector has no one to put his picture up, and will soon be forgotten forever. Therefore, to show Miguel the importance of family, Hector teaches him real meaning of music and why his family cares so much for him to hold fast to the sacred traditions of their ancestors.
The story itself holds a very conservative meaning and is useful to all children looking up to the central character. The entire premise of the movie is to surround yourself with people who love and care for you and trust those that want you to succeed with integrity. By keeping with traditions, we can grow as a person by never forgetting the past and what got us there. We may have a goal for ourself, such as Miguel with his music, but turning away evil and setting aside ourself in humility is how we ultimately succeed. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18-22, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” Coco itself isn’t trying to portray a message of quenching the spirit. However, we as Christians at times try and reject culture and traditional values set up through the word of God. Like Miguel, we can find ourselves lost and trying to achieve our goals on our own without guideance. If we surround ourselves with brethren and that that was us to achieve heaven over all things (in Miguel’s case it is his family’s desire to see him flee the sins of his great grandfather), we can succeed in what we want.
At no point will Coco be considered the best in a long line of great Pixar movies. Despite it’s twists in plot and lovable characters, it’s predictability toward the end leave the film just short of an animated masterpiece. Some of the jokes are forced and out of place, and in some places it seems to follow the formula of a Latino “Back to the Future”. Despite all that, we are left with an entertaining and timely story about a boy and his journey to understand his purpose in life.
With the final original Pixar film of the decade, Coco brings a rich and wonderful tale on importance of abstaining from the evils of fame and fortune, family, and cultural traditions.
Coco, runtime: 110 min, PG