Movie Review: Pixar’s Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich
Producer: Darla K. Anderson
Writers: Lee Unkrich,Jason Katz,Matthew Aldrich,and Adrian Molina
Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, and Edward James Olmos

In which I take Pixar to task for their ancestor worship.

Coco is about a boy named Miguel Rivera who lives with a family of shoe makers who seems to hate music. There is no singing, mariachi playing, no radio, nothing. All music is banned. But Miguel loves music. His greatest wish is to be like the greatest singer/actor in all Mexico, Ernesto de la Cruz, who died tragically while filming a movie. He decides to play in the festival for Day of the Dead with a guitar that he has kept hidden from his family but is discovered and the guitar is destroyed. While at the family’s ofrenda he damages a picture frame with his great-great-grandmother, his great-grandmother (named Coco) as a little girl, and his great-great-grandfather whose head in the picture has been torn off but is holding the famous guitar of Ernesto de la Cruz.

Seeing this he decides to steal the guitar from Ernesto’s tomb because he decides that based on the picture he must be the great-great-grandson of Ernesto de la Cruz and he has a right to this guitar. But stealing from the dead on the festival of the Day of the Dead has consequences, and Miguel has been turned into a ghost. Now normal people can’t see him but the dead can.

Turns out that the afterlife has its bureaucracy too. Because Miguel winds up in the government offices that handles such things. Miguel has been cursed by stealing from the dead, and not only that but by damaging the picture on the ofrenda his great-great-grandmother can’t cross over to the land of the living to be with her descendents. This is very important. So when Miguel is brought into the office he is told that he must return to the land of the living before sunrise or he becomes a ghost forever. And the only way to return is for one of his relatives to bless him. Well his great-great-grandmother is upset with him and but says she will bless him but with conditions. And the conditions are no music. Miguel refuses the blessing and goes in search of his great-great-grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz, who because he is a singer knows he will bless him and allow Miguel to sing and make music.

On the way Miguel meets a skeleton named Hector who played with Ernesto. Hector offers to help Miguel if Miguel helps him by taking his photo and placing it on the ofrenda of his family. And then Miguel learns a dark secret if a person’s family forgets a dead relatives in time that spirit will disappear into non-existentance. It is only by having the pictures on the ofrenda and the relatives seeing them can a dead spirit survive in the afterlife.

Now knowing this Miguel trys to help Hector, get the blessing of Ernesto de la Cruz, and avoid turning into a ghost forever.

Now it is without a doubt that Pixar has accurately portrayed the traditions of the Mexican people regarding the Day of the Dead. Which is worth while in itself. But as I was talking with my daughter about this film she brought up some interesting points. In this depiction of the afterlife there is no justice. Good, bad, everyone “lives” in the same place. The poor lives in run down shacks while the rich have there mansions. It is implied that the offerings on ofrenda may have something to do with the quality of afterlife but nothing is certain. But whatever afterlife this is it isn’t the biblical one. The punishment for their sins appears to be non-existentance. But if you are a murderer and your family keeps your picture on the ofrenda you are assured of continuing on. Plus what happens if you have no family? Sorry even if you were a saint on the earth you end up with non-existentance.

I would also invite the readers to look into the traditions regarding the Day of the Dead how the family places food and gifts on ofrendas, which are just altars for the dead. This isn’t Christian teaching regarding how we are to remember the dead.

Lastly I would say that watching Pixar’s Coco would be good to learn of the Mexican culture but at the same time you need to point out what the biblical teaching is regarding what happens when people die.

Pixar Coco gets three stars with reservations.