Going to the movies as a child is an unforgettable adventure. The whole experience from start to finish is as exciting as anything else our young brains could imagine. In the lobby of a theater you can see it in the kids. Their bodies start pulsing with energy and they bounce around with huge smiles stretching their mouths wide!
Still, it might be helpful to know a little bit about what to expect at some of the most popular kids’ movies of the season.
Because, from the parents’ side, it might not be so exciting. The whole production of simply getting to the movie theater, getting through the ticket-line and the concession-line, and then getting the kids into their seats and to stay in their seats – it can be exhausting!
Preparation goes a long way towards a smoother movie trip overall. And there are even options beyond the traditional movie-going experience that might be just what your family needs.
If you’ve got a little one with needs, there’s always the concern of how they will experience the movie. There’s the worry that whatever movie you’ve chosen to see might not be all it’s cracked up to be. It might be scarier or sadder than expected, or it might go over the little ones’ heads.
Epilepsy warnings and motion sickness notwithstanding, some movies are just a little too much for some kiddos, regardless of their level of needs.
Let’s take a look at one of this season’s most beloved family movies: Pixar’s Coco.
What’s It About?
Pixar’s Coco is by far the best kids’ film on the menu right now. The trailers and Pixar’s track record alone make it stand out from the crowd. With a multitude of children’s movies that dumb down their themes and humor until they’re almost unwatchable from an adult perspective, it’s a refreshing change to experience a kids’ movie that is equally as enjoyable for us as for the kiddos. And Coco definitely achieves that balance.
Advertised as a light-hearted adventure through a Día de los Muertos themed underworld, Coco’s trailers echoed an earlier kids’ film called Book of Life in many respects. However, although the movies begin in a similar fashion and are stylistically similar simply because of their setting, they are completely different in story and execution. Where Book of Life was a movie that centered very strongly on a romantic love that overcame literal death, Coco addresses themes of family, ambition, greed, grief, and compromise.
Miguel, a young boy living with his family in Mexico in the not-too-distant past, grows up on the stories of his great-great-grandfather’s unforgivable abandonment of his great-great-grandmother and their daughter Coco, his great-grandmother. It was his great-great-grandfather’s pursuit of fame as a musician that drew him away, and because it was music that tore them apart, the Rivera family has rejected it, and embraced instead what kept them together: shoemaking. But despite these histories, Miguel longs for music in his life.
On Día de los Muertos, the Rivera family prepares for the traditional celebration, putting up pictures of their family on the ofrenda, lining the path to their home with flower petals, and lighting candles of vigil. But upon discovering that he is the great-great-grandson of perhaps the most famous Latin musician ever, Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel decides to seize his moment, as de la Cruz often encouraged fans to do in his time.
Defying his family, Miguel runs away to perform in the Día de los Muertos musicians’ contest in the Plaza Mariachi of his hometown. But in order to enter the contest, he must have a guitar. Trying in vain to borrow one from one of the other musicians, Miguel resorts to “borrowing” the guitar that rests in his great-great-grandfather’s tomb.
The minute he begins to play, however, something unusual occurs. Miguel finds himself stuck in the world of his dead ancestors, and he has no idea how to get home again. Luckily, he runs into the spirits of his ancestors, and, recognizing them from their pictures on the ofrenda, he enlists their help. They discover that returning to his own world is as simple as attaining the blessing of his family.
But his great-great-grandmother, still bitter about the music that stole her husband from her side, imposes a condition along with her blessing: Miguel must never play music again. Refusing to accept the idea of a music-less life, Miguel sets off to find his Abuela Coco’s father, his great-great-grandfather, in the hopes of attaining his blessing instead…
The young actor Anthony Gonzalez, who plays the film’s main protagonist Miguel, gives an absolutely enchanting performance, and surprising names like Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt also appear in the credits. An entirely Latino cast (plus Pixar's ever-present John Ratzenberger) provides a fascinating and immersive journey into Mexican culture, punctuated by distinctive mariachi music.
What Do the Kids Think?
Children love this movie. In the theater, there were audible gasps and yells from children in the audience at surprising parts or during action scenes. Lots of loud laughter and hilarious giggling happened. During the serious parts, quite a bit of sniffling could be heard. And at one particularly crucial point in the story, a small voice cut into the silence with a desperate, “You have to sing his song, Miguel!”
Because children are clearly so engaged by this movie, it’s important to be aware of a few things about it. If you have a little one who tends to get scared during movies, there are a few scary sequences. There is a highly cartoonized part where someone gets crushed by a huge bell, a plot twist involving poison where there is a flashback showing a death, and at one point Miguel is thrown off a balcony and plummets downward for several dramatic seconds.
There are also animalesque spirit guides in the movie called alebrijes. One such guide that plays a rather large part in the action is a huge winged jaguar with a loud, fierce roar. But the jaguar, named Pepita, is a good guy in the overarching storyline, so that may ease some of her scaring power.
From a sensory perspective, in addition to the loud roars from Pepita and many upbeat mariachi numbers, there are a number of scenes that are visually crowded. It’s absolutely stunning, but it could also be overwhelming – light plays a big part in the landscapes of the movie and might be overstimulating for a child with sensory processing issues.
So, Is It Worth It?
Overall, Coco is definitely a movie with a lot of potential for an awesome family trip to the movies. But don’t underestimate Pixar’s ability to tug at your heartstrings! It would not be unwise to bring tissues if you’re one to cry at movies… This movie is mostly light-hearted and adventure driven, but the ending has some pretty amazing heart-melting power. If you have little ones that enjoy the movie-going experience, this is one to put in the running.
The Franklin Theatre had a showing of Coco on December 6th, and are often screening current movies. Regal and AMC, as well as other theaters throughout Tennessee, are still screening Coco on a fairly regular basis, despite its having been out for almost two months now.
For those of you with children who might not enjoy a traditional movie theater setting, the Regal Cinemas at Opry Mills is offering sensory-friendly screenings of Coco and other movies of all genres! A sensory-friendly showing of a movie generally includes dim-lighting as opposed to darkness, a quieter volume to reduce the sound-stimulation from the movie, and a welcoming environment for getting up and moving around even while the movie plays.
The Regal program is called My Way Matinee and might provide a safe environment for your family to enjoy movies in the theater. If you’re interested in screenings of movies outside of Coco, AMC also offers sensory-friendly showings of movies.
Coco is full of delightful twists and charming humor. And since it’s a visual feast, this movie delivers a truly magical experience in theaters.
Happy movie-going, friends!