Yesterday, I watched Coco at a local movie theater. Because I hardly ever watch television, I didn’t even know there was a new Pixar movie until my brothers told me.
Coco follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel into the Land of the Dead. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that, as the name suggests, celebrates the dead. On that day, living family members put up photos of the deceased. Multiple generations of Miguel’s family are represented on the family altar, but his great great grandfather is deliberately missing. This great great grandfather left Miguel’s great great grandmother to pursue his musical career. He eventually became a national sensation. Everyone loved the great great grandfather. Everyone, that is, except the great great grandmother who banished music from her family’s life as a result of her husband’s betrayal. She raised her daughter as a single parent and started a successful shoe business that Miguel’s parents continue to operate. Although Miguel loves music, his entire family has continued the tradition of banning music from the household. In his quest to become a musician, Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead. He seeks a blessing from his musical great great grandfather, so that he can return to the Land of the Living and fulfill his dreams.
Although the film follows Miguel, Coco is the name of the great great granddaughter. This relative is suffering from Alzheimer’s. She no longer recognizes her daughter. But she continues to ask about her father. She awaits his return.
The title of the film is very apt because the story is really about the women in Miguel’s family. They are the creators and the enforcers of the anti-music tradition. A woman started the family shoe business that saved her and her daughter from poverty.
But while the women are powerful characters, more time could have been given to their stories. I was impressed by the great great grandmother’s resilience and accomplishments. I sympathized with her anger. Single mothers don’t get much representation in Disney or Pixar films. I would have liked more backstory for the women.
The end is satisfactory, if a bit rushed. At 1 hour and 49 minutes, Coco is a fairly short film. But despite its length, Miguel’s friends and enemies are three dimensional characters. This is not a black-and-white universe. The viewer understands the villain’s motives, and appearances are deceptive. The bad guy doesn’t “look” evil. In children’s films, the villain often has a disfigurement, but Coco avoids any such ableism. For more on villains and disfigurement, watch this video. The film is both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Despite my criticism concerning the amount of time spent on the women’s stories, the film does emphasize their influence on Miguel’s identity. I did not have an issue with the representation of Mexican culture in Coco. The animation is also quite impressive. I would love to rewatch the film at some point. Multiple plot twists add to the film’s thematic complexity. Families are messy and so is Miguel’s. I know that this film is being compared to Moana (2016), but I think Coco is far superior.
If you’ve seen Coco, what did you think of the film?