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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Coco is a vibrant Disney/Pixar film that explores the traditions of the Day of the Dead, a child's desire to become a musician despite his family's wishes, and the power of unconditional love. Told from the point of view of Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who ends up in the Land of the Dead, the movie -- which features an all-star Latino voice cast (including Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt), as well as a Latino co-director and many Latino crew members -- is a tribute to Mexican traditions and customs. The Land of the Dead contains some potentially disturbing imagery, but most kids will probably get used to all of the skeletons quickly. A few moments of life-or-death peril are fraught with tension, but none of the major characters die (at least, who aren't already dead). There's also some drinking by adult characters (a shot, cocktails at a party) and a few uses of words like "stupid." While all is well in the end, the movie can be dark and sad (as with most Pixar films, it's likely some viewers will cry), especially for those who've lost beloved relatives. But it also has powerful themes of perseverance, teamwork, and gratitude and encourages audiences to love and appreciate their family and always follow their dreams.
What's the story?
COCO follows Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young Mexican boy born into a family of zapateros (shoemakers). For generations, the family has imposed a ban on playing or listening to music because, decades earlier, Miguel's great-great-grandfather left his great-great-grandmother Imelda and their young daughter, Coco, to become a musician. But Miguel secretly plays the guitar and yearns to become a famous musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), the long-dead singer/actor from Miguel's hometown. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel fights with his family, steals de la Cruz's guitar from a crypt, and somehow gets transported to the Land of the Dead. There, Miguel meets up with his deceased relatives and learns he can only return to the world of the living with a dead ancestor's blessing. Because Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) inserts a no-music clause into her blessing, Miguel flees her and the rest of his skeletal relatives in search of de la Cruz, whom he believes to be his great-great-grandfather. Instead, Miguel teams up with Hector (Gael García Bernal), a scheming skeleton who claims to know de la Cruz, on his journey to find the dead idol and earn his blessing, musician to musician.
Is it any good?
Colorful, beautifully animated, and culturally sensitive, Coco is an affecting, multilayered coming-of-age drama. Miguel just wants to make music, even though it's forbidden to him because his family believes that music cursed them. Gonzalez, a tween who performs Mariachi music, is an ideal pick to voice the movie's main character. He may not be a household name yet, but after his movie-carrying performance, it's clear the 12-year-old is, like his animated alter ego, a talented performer. Featuring "Remember Me," an original song from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (the husband-and-wife team behind the Frozen soundtrack), and other songs written and produced by a team of Mexican songwriters and consultants, Coco boasts an authentic soundtrack and a memorable score by award-winning composer Michael Giacchino.
The voice cast is nearly all Latino (and most actually are Mexican), with internationally renowned Mexican-American actor Edward James Olmos and comedians Cheech Marin and Gabriel Iglesias voicing supporting characters. Bratt (who's half Peruvian) has just the right timbre of gravitas to play de la Cruz, a famous and vainglorious musician who died at the peak of his career. As for the titular character, she's Miguel's wheelchair-bound great-grandmother (Ana Ofelia Murguía), and her scenes with Miguel will bring a tear to even the most jaded viewer's eyes. The movie will be especially moving for anyone who's had to separate from their family, whether because of death or another reason (including immigration complications or difficult situations back home). But of all the movie's relationships, it's really Miguel's with Hector that's the most nuanced and fascinating. Bernal's Hector is so much more than he seems, and whether he's pretending to be Frida Kahlo (the ghost of Kahlo herself also makes an appearance), playing the guitar, or pleading his case to be remembered, he's the film's second hero. Like the best Pixar movies, Coco is ultimately a story about the power of relationships and why familia is so important.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of stories about young characters who must go on a dangerous journey to find out about themselves. What does Miguel learn in Coco? How do his experiences in the Land of the Dead help him grow?
Did you already know about the Day of the Dead? If not, what did you learn about the holiday? How does your family pay tribute to relatives and loved ones after they've passed away? Which other Mexican traditions and values does the movie promote? Which holidays, music, and other cultural traditions do you celebrate with your family?
Did you notice that characters speak both English and Spanish in the movie? Would you like to learn a second language? For bilingual families: Why do you think it's important or useful to speak two languages? How does language connect you with your heritage -- and your family?
- In theaters: November 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: February 27, 2018
- Cast: Benjamin Bratt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez
- Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
- Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Character Strengths: Gratitude, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Common Sense Seal, Golden Globe
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