Coco came out in Canadian and American theatres yesterday, hitting an estimated $13.3M on the first day. It received an A+ CinemaScore, currently sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and became Mexico’s highest grossing film of all time when it was released there last month.
Coco is a coming of age story, centered around 12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), his close-knit family of shoe-makers and music-haters, and his dream of becoming a musician. It’s full of beautiful colours and animation, lively music, and quick dialogue. It’s set on Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, and is strongly rooted in Mexican culture. I can’t personally speak on the authenticity of it, but I do believe Coco was a beautiful piece of art, packed densely with culture, heritage, and enough Spanish language that at times I found it hard to follow. It features an almost entirely Latinx cast (all but one), including Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubech, Sofía Espinosa, Edward James Olmos, and Jaime Camil. That also includes writer and co-director Adrian Molina, and a team of ‘cultural consultants.’
Coco did not come without controversy; When the film was first announced in 2012, the only people officially committed to the film were white, so it’s understandable why people were reacting skeptically. Then Disney tried to copy right ‘Día de Muertos’ back in 2013. This obviously did not go over well with a lot of people, which led to Disney hiring the team of cultural consultants including Lalo Alcaraz, the political cartoonist at the helm of the backlash against them, to give them advice on the authenticity of the film.
It was also released three years after The Book of Life, another 3D animated film based around Día de Muertos. Coco was announced in 2012, right before The Book of Life started production, and the latter had been in the works in some form or another since as early as 2001. Because of their similar aesthetic styles and musical themes, the two movies have been compared relentlessly; before Coco even came out. Many speculate they could be twin films, while others think Coco is simply a rip off of The Book of Life. I love both these movies, and I can tell you that they are incredibly different and both very much worth watching. They have wonderful messages, with uniquely stunning animation and fun, developped characters. But while Coco is a coming of age story about family, The Book of Life is a love story about facing your fears.
Three years is an unusually long time gap for movies to be compared this heavily, and it seems a little odd to me that people think it’s so crazy to have two recent films about the Day of the Dead. I don’t hear people complaining when yet another Christmas movie comes out. Is it not a good thing that this huge holiday, celebrated by millions around the world, is being represented in popular media? It seems like comparing the two so vigorously could undermine the fight for inclusion. You are, in fact, allowed to enjoy both films, and filmmakers can and should continue to make movies based around holidays from all cultures. Get used to it, because The Book of Life has a sequel coming out soon. Disney and Reel FX have taken note of the comparisons, with the directors of both movies tweeting about the issue.
Coco is a deeply profound, emotional movie. I was still balling well into the credits. It’s the perfect film that deals with life and death and just about everything else that people of all ages can appreciate. It hit a million heart strings, and will make a lot of viewers think twice about their relationship with their family. While it seems to be more geared towards an older audience than most Pixar movies, it opens up a serious and important discussion for younger ones as well. Check out the trailer below, or go see it in theatres now!