Coco, the new Pixar film that’s set in Mexico during Dia de los Muertos, handles the subject of death with humor, lightness, and depth. The “Coco” in question is the oldest living relative of the film’s young protagonist, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), but the story is driven by Miguel’s passion for becoming a musician—and the conflicted relationship he has with his family, who label music as “bad” for reasons he has yet to learn.
But Miguel is tenacious when it comes to performing (“I’m gonna play Mariachi Plaza if it kills me!”), and after his abuelita smashes his guitar, Miguel steals the guitar of a famous ancestor. Since taking from the dead is a big no-no—especially on Dia de los Muertos—Miguel crosses over into the Land of the Dead.
Some funny cultural moments are present throughout, like when Miguel’s abuelita forces additional tamales on the kid when he’s not even that hungry, while Miguel’s family matriarchs are keen to fight off the musically inclined by weaponizing their shoes.
I feel a little better about my own mortality after seeing Coco; apparently all I need to do to live forever is make sure the living keep remembering me. The system might be rigged, though: Coco demonstrates a hierarchy in the Land of the Dead, since only celebrities and the widely loved can avoid a “final death.” (Speaking of which, Frida Kahlo’s iconic likeness makes an appearance, the ethics of which seem a little fuzzy.)
Coco has a couple edgy twists (well, edgy for Pixar, at least) that I won’t spoil for you, but I will recommend bringing a box of Kleenex to share with your row. (During one climactic scene at my screening, a child blurted out, “I just can’t!”) Coco ends up being an exceedingly tender kids’ film with deep themes about mortality, ancestry, and memories—and any adult with a soul will be moved, too.