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Family Fare Beats Superhero Films at Holiday Box Office

Moneymakers 'Coco' and 'Wonder' kick off the moviegoing season

Superheroes got their spandex derrieres kicked this Thanksgiving weekend by movies about ordinary families who achieve their dreams by honoring their elders.

DC Comics' mediocre Justice League and Marvel's wonderful Thor: Ragnarok were beaten by No. 1 box-office champ Coco ($153 million worldwide, and a rare A+ CinemaScore rating), whose title character is a loving grandma (Ana Ofelia Murguía, 83, an 11-time nominee for Mexico’s Oscar equivalent) struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and scoring a triumph for all eternity. Also starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Edward James Olmos, Coco had the fourth-best Thanksgiving opening of all time after Toy Story 2Frozen and Moana


Walt Disney Co./Everett Collection

Renee Victor provides the voice for Mama Elena, an animated grandma, in "Coco," and 13-year-old Anthony Gonzalez is the voice of Miguel, a young Mexican boy with musical dreams.

Coco is set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, when families invite their departed relatives to come back for a celebratory reunion. Ghosts can walk the flowery bridge from the Land of the Dead back to the living, only if their families remember them by posting their photos in a shrine. And Coco is in danger of forgetting her late father — because of her illness, and also because he was a musician who abandoned Coco and her mom. The family forbids Miguel, Coco’s great-grandson, from becoming a singer like his famous ancestor. No spoilers, but it turns out that music is the key to making Coco’s entire family’s dreams come true.

As studies have shown, songs work for dementia patients in real life, too, stimulating memories and boosting cognitive function. Coco’s animated face looks fully human, not cartoonish, and besides being the first great Pixar movie about Hispanics (and the top-grossing film in Mexican history), Coco is the best film about Alzheimer’s since Away From Her. The film's themes of memory and family will continue to resonate, and a $275 million global gross is quite possible by Christmas.

Meanwhile, Julia Roberts, 50, also beat the superheroes, as the heroic mother of a still more heroic disfigured son who braves the horrors of public school in Wonder. The heartstring-plucking family drama and coming-of-age tale came in third place to Justice League and ahead of Thor — an amazing feat, since Wonder is in its second week, when audiences usually quit flocking. In fact, Wonder 's audience pull is so strong, with a cumulative $70 million gross so far, that IndieWire box-office expert Tom Brueggemann predicts it may outearn 2016’s top word-of-mouth crowdpleaser, Hidden Figures.

If Wonder hits $169 million gross (according to Box Office Mojo figures), it will be Roberts’ third-biggest movie ever. At present, her top three films are Ocean's Eleven, Pretty Women and Runaway Bride, which grossed $152 million. It's probably safe to say if Wonder beats Pretty Woman’s $178 million, expect a whole lot more heartwarming films about heroic ordinary people.

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