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A boy pursues his dream through the land of the dead in this gorgeous film

© Disney/Pixar Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming a musician. Desperate to prove his talent, he finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
     Music is a dirty word in Miguel’s (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez: Icebox) family. It’s been banned since his great-great-grandfather abandoned the family to chase dreams of fame as a singer. Miguel is destined to continue the family business, making shoes, and hand it on to the next generation. 
      But Miguel has music in his blood.
      He sneaks into a secret room in the attic of the shoe factory to listen to the music of his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt: Shot Caller). A hero in Miguel’s town, de la Cruz was a star of stage and screen before his untimely death. Miguel taught himself to play the guitar by watching de la Cruz’s movies. He has talent but no audience save for Dante, a street dog he feeds. 
      He is, of course, discovered. After his abuelita (voiced by Renée Victor: A Time of Love and War) smashes his guitar, Miguel walks into the streets just as the town’s Dia de los Muertos celebration begins. 
     A rash decision leads him to the land of the dead, where he finds three generations of his family all preparing to visit the living world. They want to reconcile Miguel with his family, but the boy has different plans. He seeks the blessing of Ernesto de la Cruz.
      As Miguel journeys across the land of the dead, he becomes less human.
      Can he survive his quest and evade his family?
     Pixar’s exploration of Dia de los Muertos features gorgeous animation, heartfelt storytelling and surprising emotional depth. It is sentimental but never maudlin. 
      That’s in part because directors Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Adrian Molina (who co-wrote the screenplay) have also packed the film with laugh-provoking visual humor and fun characters. Kids might begin a little leery of the talking skeletons, but the goofy animals will keep them entertained. 
      A cut above typical animated fare, Coco treats Mexican culture with respect. The credits offer resources for learning more.
     All together, Coco represents a return to form for Pixar, a boost needed after The Good Dinosaur and Cars 3
      This Thanksgiving, buy tickets for Coco. The rare family film that won’t bore adults and will keep kids amused, it’s the perfect antidote to the stresses of the world and the holiday. 
Great Animation • PG • 109 mins.
New this Week
Darkest Hour
      Even as Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) is being sworn in as prime minister, the British Empire seems on the verge of collapse. Nazis are crushing continental Europe. For the sake of peace, the British government is considering a treaty with Germany. 
      Churchill knows peace with the Nazis is impossible. Can he persuade his country and his king to fight for survival?
     The answer is obviously yes. The real story is how Churchill managed to convince a war-weary nation to enter another world war. Oldman has the right stuff to dramatize Churchill’s fortitude and political skill. For fans of historic dramas and great acting, Darkest Hour should be worth the ticket. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 125 mins. 
The Man Who Invented Christmas
      Charles Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) publishers fear he’s losing his audience. He promises them a sure-fire hit in a Christmas story certain to be cherished for years to come.
      Now he has to write it.
     He borrows his most memorable character, Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) from real life.
     Combining magical realism with the true story of the creation of A Christmas Carol, this fictionalized history promises a whimsical tale for the whole family. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 104 mins.