Coco: A Syncretistic Masterpiece

Pixar’s latest animated film Coco released on November 22, 2017, just in time for the Thanksgiving movie rush. While in my hometown of Jacksonville, IL, April and I took our kids to the show along with their grandparents. Our evening, like the plot of the film, was a family affair.

I’ve been rebuked for including spoilers in my movie reviews in the past. No warnings here. I won’t share anything beyond what you can pick up in the trailer. Coco is about a family gathering that includes both the living and the dead.

Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico in the autumn. It is a time when families gather to remember their deceased loved ones, to pray for them in order to help them on their spiritual journey beyond the grave. The holiday, which was originally celebrated in the summer, was moved to its current date to coincide with the Catholic tradition of remembrance of the saints, All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween.

This is one of the more family friendly animated films in recent history. It is devoid of the frequent innuendos and unnecessarily crude humor that plague films like the Despicable franchise. Our group enjoyed it. I heartily recommend it.

For parents wanting to take advantage of a teachable moment, you will have ample examples of syncretism. Syncretism is the act of pulling together multiple belief systems, of mixing different religions. For example, you will see crosses on the wall in several scenes contrasted with prayers offered for the dead in anticipation of their visit.

For the Christian, we must seek to use the Bible as our authoritative guide for life and doctrine. Our beliefs should not be a mere amalgamation of biblical teachings plus everything else the culture tells us is important. That means we have to think critically, biblically, about even treasured family traditions. Coco, arguably the most beautiful of all the Pixar films, offers a powerful reminder of the vital importance of the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone.