Parental Guidance

3 Movies like Coco That Deal with Death and Loss from a Kid's Perspective

by | November 22, 2017 | Comments

Even though Pixar’s latest effort, Coco, is another heartwarming animated tale aimed at family audiences, it does deal with often difficult subjects to discuss with kids, like death, grief, and memory loss. By most accounts, though, Coco is great, so don’t be afraid to see it with your children. But if you’re looking for some alternate recommendations, Christy Lemire has you covered.


THE MOVIE

Coco (2017) 97%

Rating: PG, for thematic elements.

The latest animated extravaganza from Disney/Pixar is a visual delight, brimming with color, energy and magical creatures. But much of the film from director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) also takes place in the Land of the Dead, which is full of talking, singing skeletons as well as spirit animals that can, at times, seem menacing. It’s all beautiful and often quite funny. But danger abounds as well as deeply sad moments about memory loss and death. Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy from a Mexican family full of shoemakers, dreams of becoming a musician like his idol, movie and singing star Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But his family has forbidden music in the house for generations because of a long-ago betrayal. On Dia de los Muertos – the traditional Day of the Dead – Miguel travels to the Land of the Dead to fulfill his destiny and learn his true identity. The skeletons are, for the most part, warm and friendly. Miguel’s ancestors, who’ve been watching over him, welcome him and help him get back home. But very young kids might find them frightening, as well as a giant, winged spirit animal that’s after Miguel. Scenes in which elderly relatives appear feeble, forgetful and on the brink of death might seem confusing to small children, but they also offer the opportunity to talk about the importance of honoring the cultural contributions of our ancestors. Fine for viewers around 5 or 6 and older.


THE RECOMMENDATIONS

If you’re looking for other films that deal with themes of loss, death, and the great beyond to share with your family, there are lots of great choices, including:

ParaNorman (2012) 88%

Rating: PG, for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language.

The stop-motion animation films from LAIKA (Coraline, Kubo and the Two Strings) are painstakingly rendered and endlessly inventive. But they often have an off-kilter sense of humor and darker themes, which might work best for more mature kids. Here, in the studio’s second film, an 11-year-old misfit named Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) must use his ability to communicate with the dead to save his small New England town from a zombie invasion. But the place already was cursed, thanks to a centuries-old witch-hunt. Monsters abound, which clearly will be too frightening for very little kids. Children are almost constantly in peril and there are lots of dark shadows and jump scares. The creatures are grotesque – some have body parts that fall off — but that’s usually played for laughs. But Norman also has the opportunity to connect with his recently deceased grandmother (the great Elaine Stritch), who lingers in purgatory and serves as his friend and guide. It’s a touching relationship. ParaNorman also has valuable themes about understanding, tolerance and overcoming bullying. Fine for viewers around 8 and older.


Frankenweenie (2012) 87%

Rating: PG, for thematic elements, scary images and action.

Another stop-motion animated film, this time from the delightfully twisted mind of Tim Burton. Following the accidental death of his beloved dog, Sparky, 10-year-old Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) figures out how to bring his buddy back to life using his vast science knowledge. Sparky isn’t quite the same, though, and his reincarnation leads to an invasion of monstrous creatures. Burton’s film is gorgeous in crisp black-and-white, and the meticulous details are dazzling. Frankenweenie might be too scary for very young children; technically and thematically, it represents the best of what Burton has had to offer over his lengthy career. But it’s also a sweet story about the powerful bond between a boy and his dog, one that goes on even after death — a heartrending subject, to be sure, but one that Burton infuses with his trademark mix of lively energy and macabre laughs. The film also features a sympathetic, protective portrayal of an outsider and an affectionate skewering of the sanctity of suburbia. Fine for kids around 7 and older.


My Girl (1991) 53%

Rating: PG-13.

Have tissues handy: My Girl is a tearjerker, no matter how old you are. It’s also a sweet coming-of-age movie that’s a good fit for both girls and boys. Director Howard Zieff’s film is much better than its 50% Tomatometer score would suggest, thanks to its strong cast. Anna Chlumsky stars as Vada, a perky and bright pre-teen girl who’s obsessed with death in 1972. Her father (Dan Aykroyd) is a mortician, her mother died giving birth to her, and she’s a hypochondriac. (And, as in Coco, Vada has a grandmother who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s.) Her best friendship with a boy named Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin) helps provide her with the comfort and stability that she needs, especially when Dad gets remarried to his new cosmetician (Jamie Lee Curtis). But a shocking, accidental death changes everything. Vada, a tomboy, is coming to terms with puberty, so there’s also some sort-of grown-up talk about body changes. My Girl may seem overly earnest, but it’s also a well-intentioned and direct film about moving through loss and grief toward understanding and redemption. Fine for viewers around 8 and older.

Tag Cloud

TCA what to watch Crackle Cartoon Network IFC Films Columbia Pictures Netflix Tomatazos dramedy CW Seed Syfy Lionsgate hist TCA 2017 VH1 television talk show discovery Set visit Extras cats period drama Christmas Sci-Fi Action social media Food Network SundanceTV 24 frames Toys Schedule YouTube Premium Hulu comiccon Showtime Mystery San Diego Comic-Con Opinion Podcast Sony Pictures Valentine's Day Martial Arts CNN National Geographic BET Premiere Dates biography justice league Certified Fresh Mary Tyler Moore Fox News robots doctor who Awards Comedy Central Universal CBS All Access Fantasy BBC Esquire war TruTV Holidays MTV romance Musicals Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 20th Century Fox political drama Spring TV Spike YouTube Red El Rey President Teen Creative Arts Emmys Emmys Quiz Mary poppins Best and Worst Countdown Adult Swim Disney Channel Awards Tour 2016 45 Election Writers Guild of America FXX Box Office cinemax CMT FOX WGN The Arrangement docudrama ITV SXSW Ovation Star Wars Amazon ABC Family Watching Series HBO Polls and Games TCM award winner spider-man OWN 007 Musical Sundance Now Oscars Infographic politics anime ratings Kids & Family Britbox sitcom Red Carpet historical drama Pop cops 2015 serial killer Interview dceu NBC Nickelodeon Rom-Com golden globes dc TIFF APB TV Land Paramount blaxploitation TBS A&E Drama Cosplay Starz CBS TV PaleyFest police drama cults science fiction First Look Shondaland travel ABC Lucasfilm Nat Geo Trophy Talk crime thriller Chilling Adventures of Sabrina DirecTV Thanksgiving Marvel Rock 2018 NYCC Country Animation Summer vampires based on movie binge composers Acorn TV streaming Fall TV supernatural IFC Character Guide MSNBC psycho 2017 21st Century Fox The CW crossover Bravo American Society of Cinematographers Calendar Pixar Grammys DC Universe boxoffice comic VICE thriller unscripted Apple SDCC singing competition Trivia Pirates Masterpiece 2019 mutant Reality Competition cooking Video Games green book GoT YA Marathons Western TNT GIFs medical drama X-Men Trailer finale Freeform ESPN Winners History GLAAD See It Skip It harry potter aliens crime drama Superheroe jamie lee curtis Nominations Photos Star Trek Disney crime Epix Reality Ghostbusters Dark Horse Comics BBC America Rocky TLC Sneak Peek FX Shudder Song of Ice and Fire sports Comedy Lifetime technology AMC Walt Disney Pictures Comics on TV USA Network Sundance adventure E! Ellie Kemper zombie transformers RT History festivals PBS Biopics Mindy Kaling diversity Logo USA Music Warner Bros. Tumblr zombies Paramount Network New York Comic Con DC streaming service Mary Poppins Returns E3 DC Comics Comic Book Super Bowl Superheroes LGBTQ Horror Year in Review Winter TV spy thriller