‘Coco’ claims No. 1 spot during holiday break, delivers heartwarming family messaging

This past Thanksgiving break, my family and I went to watch the premiere of “Coco,” which tells the story of 12-year-old boy named Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez).  The movie is set against the backdrop of Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), the Mexican holiday when families gather to honor ancestors by building altars and decorating their grave sites.

The movie opens in Mexico with a sequence of storyboards told on colorful papel picado (large confetti paper). You enter into the Rivera’s ancestral history and how they became a family of shoemakers of which reveals the protagonist, Miguel’s great-grandmother, Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía). Although the story is viewed through Miguel’s experience, it’s really Mama Coco’s character that holds the storyline together.

The movie created compelling, engaging and relatable characters with vast experiences. From Miguel’s dog, Dante, to Miguel’s great-great grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach). This film transcends many family films I have watched before; its careful instrumentation of connectivity between the characters is superb. The connection is beautifully orchestrated to illustrate the love and authenticity between the family dead or alive.

Miguel recognizes that he is a musician at heart, but his family banned after Imelda was abandoned to take care of the family by a musician. The bad taste of musicians in the Rivera family made it difficult for Miguel to gain support of his dream to become a musician. Despite his family’s disapproval, Miguel still follows his intuition and seeks after his dream. In this quest, Miguel is accidentally transported to the land of the dead, where he seeks the help of his musician great-great-grandfather to return him to his family among the living

Ironically, the music was the element that gave breath to the story. The music reels you in, making you feel love, hate, sadness, happiness and romance along with the characters. The music was a modern rendition on traditional Mexican music; it explored sounds new and familiar. It reminded me of music that I grew up listening to; however,  it wasn’t my mom’s old cassette, it was an original song created for the purposes of the film.

The music, characters and story offered an emotional, heartwarming storyline that reflects over the importance of connecting with family. The movie brought many, including myself, to tears because of the intimate, strong connection between the movie and the viewers. The movie’s Mexican characters and all-Latino cast catered to a Mexican audience, but the theme of remembering those before you and connecting to family is a common human experience.

Pixar’s illustration of Mexican culture raised the conversation of the importance of representation. The movie drew a huge showing over the five-day holiday weekend, beating out “Justice League” for the No. 1 spot.

Pixar also focused heavily on the animation and could be comparable to recent Pixar works such as “Toy Story 3” or “Brave,” which also include a number of detailed scenic images. In “Coco”, characteristics, including textures, finishes and colors, are added to every object to every scene, which give the movie its distinctive appeal.  

“Coco” is offered in theatres in both English and Spanish, an accommodation that made the world of a difference to many families including my own who are Spanish-dominant. A gesture that means more than breaking the language barrier on access to entertainment; it is also a feat to show that it is a critical component to a cross-cultural film. In a time where there is a complex web of ties between US and Mexico, the movie was a humanistic reminder that regardless of your background, connecting and strengthening your family is a universal ambition.