Disclosure: I was invited to a complimentary screening of Coco for purposes of review. All opinions are my own and those of my niños.
I saw COCO with three of my four men this past week. The fourth man went to go see Thor with friends and, well, who can argue with that?
I was prepared to love it. I had heard so many good things about it. And I did. But it touched me in a much more personal way than I could have predicted.
If you’ve met me for even one second, you know that I am not Latina. The only thing that comes close in me is my mom’s Italian blood. Otherwise I come from a long line of English, German, Irish and Dutch. How do I know all this? I’ve done a lot of genealogy research. I was born in Buffalo, NY but moved to Atlanta, GA when I was around 7. Therefore, I didn’t grow up with the stories. I didn’t grow up with cousins, aunts and uncles all over. Wanting to know more, I set out to find all that information myself. There was a lot of microfilm research. God bless the Catholic church. Everyone’s life was recorded. Even babies who barely took a breath – their names were written down so they could be remembered and be counted as part of a family.
My favorite part of the research, though, was finding the stories. I took a trip up to Buffalo and rounded up family. Sat for hours listening to my aunts and great-aunts tell me the stories of my Dad’s family. I wrote to aunts and great-aunts on my mom’s side of the family and received wonderful letters detailing some of our family’s more colorful history. (Why is it always the women who have the stories?) They sent me pictures, but the pictures would mean little without the stories.
I saved all the letters and learned early on that a tape recorder was the only way to make sure I got everything from the great aunts. It makes me so happy that not only can my kids know the stories, they can hear them in the voices of the people who lived them.
What does all this have to do with COCO? I may not be Latina, but I can appreciate the power of remembering those who came before. COCO is a celebration of memory. Taking place on the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Miguel Rivera finds himself in a bit of contention with his music-averse family.
Dia de los Muertos is celebrated by placing photos of deceased ancestors on some form of altar and leaving ofrendas (offerings) for the deceased. Commonly found among the photos on the altars are Mexican foods such as pan de muertos, incense and candles. Marigolds are an important part of the tradition as well.
Miguel has music in his soul but feels chained by the memory of his great-great-grandfather that allegedly abandoned the family in favor of his music. Ever since then, the family has shunned all music and forbidden Miguel from even being around it.
In a desperate act to free himself, Miguel somehow breaks through the wall between the living and the dead on that one special night. He finds himself coming face to face with his long deceased ancestors and learns some truths about what it means to be a part of a family.
My Mom Review is that the most important message of “Family First” will probably be lost on the younger kids. However, I urge you not to leave them at home. The animation is full of color and colorful characters. The scenes are engaging and there are enough slapstick moments in the movie that will keep the little ones giggling when they are not entranced with the vibrancy and detail of the scenes. There are skeletons, but they are neither menacing nor creepy.
The music is fantastic and will have your children bouncing along. Make me happy and see if you can get the whole theater clapping along with you when you go see it! Bonus points if you can embarrass your older kids by doing this.
Coco is a great movie to open a discussion with kids about the concept of “family”. What does it mean to you? Break out those stories of when you were a little kid. Tell them about the aunts, uncles and cousins that you remember. I love the song “Glorious” by Macklemore and as I’m writing this I’m reminded of these lines from the song:
I heard you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave
And the second time is the last time somebody mentions your name.
Pull out the stories. Do the remembering.
Whether you have family gathered around you this holiday season or you are missing your family, Coco might just be the best thing you can see.
COCO is now open in theaters nationwide!
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Visit the official COCO website here: http://movies.disney.com/coco