Anika Goes to Florida: The Danger of the Aesthetic

Three and half stars to Florida- the new wild, wild west of the United States Continue reading

Anika Goes to the Movies: Coco

Quick Review: 4/5 stars  My pickiest bambinos loved it. The three year old clapped repeatedly. I cried. It’s visually amazing, and though goofy (what kids flick isn’t) it’s never crude. Take the family, after the pie.


Here’s the deal, ever since I was about 5 my family has spent Thanksgiving doing some kind of activity because we lived far from the extended branches. So while the turkey cooked we would go hiking, to the zoo, and once a theater opened in proximity and Disney realized that the holidays are the time make bank on folks tired of their relatives- we’d go see a movie.

That’s right, my family is a bunch of Thanksgiving movie hipsters. We would be the only ones in the theater, maybe an older couple with nobody in town, and it was glorious. Now the box office grosses over 200million dollars each Thanksgiving weekend. And you have theater managers doing really dumb things like putting the first showing of the latest kids release in the smallest house- I’m looking at you Harkins.

But any non-movie gripes aside, Coco was our pick this year and it did not disappoint! I grew up in the desert southwest, so the trappings of Dia de los Muertos were ubiquitous to my childhood. I speak some pretty great Spanglish if I do say so myself. So when I saw the teasers for Coco I cringed inwardly. It is so easy to get the trappings of a cultural celebration right while getting the heart of it all wrong. And having rubbed up against Mexican traditions as a matter of course most of my life, I didn’t want to watch Disney ruin something so precious to so many.

But Pixar did the thing! Just Look at this cast! The voices, the story, the characters felt so familiar to me. Not in a boring, been-there-done-that sort of way, but in the resonant I-know-this-story kind of way that makes you fall immediately in love. I knew every one of those characters, but they weren’t caricatures. The strong Hispanic momma who ain’t got no time to be sad, the abuelita who is both absurdly demanding and adoring in the same sentence, the mariachi-both flashy and sincere, and Dante the dog. I’m pretty sure my husband and I met that dog on our honeymoon in Mexico 12 years ago.

The music was perfect. Totally perfect. It is a return to the solid musical production one expects from Disney and Pixar from whatever nonsensical departure they took for Moana.

Memory loss and what that does to our families is topic near to my heart just now, and I know it is for many others too. The message of the film in the end, that passing on the knowledge of who we are and where we come from is what family is for. That we show love and respect to ourselves and our living family when we bind each other together by listening to the memories of those that have gone before.

So this Thanksgiving as the pie digests, the visiting family starts fighting about the cost of road construction (or whatever gets your folks up in arms), and those Christmas boxes start creeping in from the garage take everyone to see Coco. Take tissues. And enjoy it with the millions of others who have taken up my family tradition.

Until next time, enjoy the show.

Anika Goes to the Movies: Big Hero 6


Yes, I know this one is late. We went to see it on Thanksgiving. I took my oldest (8yrs) and my nephew(6yrs I think) and it was all the fun! Also for anyone hoping to see a review of Mockingjay, I remind you, I don’t review books. And since I have read the book, I won’t be reviewing the movie. Sorry. Anyway, back to. . .

Quick rating: 4.5/5 stars Super Cute!! Super nerdy! I will probably pre-order and wait by the mailbox with baited breath. You know, for the kids. <_<  >_>

All my reviews contain spoilers. You have been warned.

Hiro is adorable! And sarcastic. And fun! And his brother Tadashi is thoughtful and brilliant and kind of epic in the superhero type way. Except, you know, he dies. Within the first third of the movie. I knew that going in and my kid handles that sort of thing really well, but I forgot about his cousin. Being a little younger and not being someone I get to hang out with often, I wasn’t as sure about him. So when the unthinkable happened I looked over at my nephew to see how he was handling it. He seemed to do ok, but I did have to explain to his mom that someone died and she might want to talk to him about it. But if you have really sensitive kiddos, or really young kiddos that haven’t dealt much with death yet, maybe you wait to watch this one, yeah?

Anyway, Baymax is about the cutest character I have ever seen. I want an oversized plush with a warmer so that I too can spoon a giant warm marshmallow. Get on it Disney! He is the embodiment of compassion and courage. There is nothing he won’t do, except hurt people, for Hiro’s wellbeing.

The voice acting was nuanced and well done, the morals were good (though one of the characters who is a jerk gets off with barely the trauma of someone trying to kill him), and the animation was wicked cool. And the story was smart without trying too hard. But I think the good guy turns bad guy thing was a little overplayed. And while the Hiro’s nerd friends-turned-super-heroes are great, the real hero of the movie is Tadashi. But he’s dead. It’s frustrating. And it illustrates one of my biggest frustrations with pop culture representations of the good guy. Why can’t the good guy just be the man making a robot that can act as a personal health companion. It’s brilliant, and as Tadashi says to Baymax, “You are going to help a lot of people.” I get that this doesn’t make for the most exciting story telling, and I am really happy that they included someone like Tadashi in such a glowing light. But in the end Baymax still has to be outfitted with armor and made to learn karate in order to be “heroic.” If a sequel is forthcoming, then I want to see Baymax saving the day with his compassion and his medical capacities more.

Of course, as a story teller I wanted more. More of the back story. What happened to their parents? How does Hiro go from traumatized kid to genius? There is just a ton there that I would love to know. And there are gaps, big old science doesn’t work like that gaps.  This is after all a kids movie so the story arch is more important than little details about how AI and inter-dimensional travel would really work. You just go with it. Ironically, in the movie you have the genius characters telling their mascot friend Steve, that his requests for on command animal transformations, etc. are not science.

Overall I loved it. If you haven’t taken your kids to see it (ages 6 and up), DO IT!! I hope they do a sequel, but not in the grand tradition of Disney sequels that suck rocks. Let’s break that mold this time guys, what do you say?

Happy watching ’til the next time Anika Goes to the Movies!