Starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Kate del Castillo
Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez
Written By: Jorge R. Gutierrez, Douglas Langdale
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 1 hr 35 min
The Book of Life is a celebration of Mexican culture as you might find in a Super Mex restaurant in Southern California. All the glorious colors and sounds, but with a distracting western sensibility and musical ear. Like a loud Cinco de Mayo piss-up crossed with a kids birthday party. The little tykes blindfolded and lined up to beat the candy out of a piñata, while their semi-inebriated parents record the event with their smart phones.
It’s also an odd blend of an old world setting, with modern progressive thinking. Love will conquer all, killing animals for sport is wrong, strong independent vegetarian women are cool, and a hero can carry a guitar instead of a sword. Which is all perfectly fine, I just wish the makers of this film had been more subtle about it.
Because fighting for attention in amongst all that is a story about two otherworldly realms, the Land of the Remembered (a.k.a. Heaven) and the Land of the Forgotten (a.k.a Hell), and a wager to see who controls them. In between all that, some bloke called The Candle Maker (a.k.a God) voiced by Mexican actor, Ice Cube (wait, that’s not right). Beyond that, a story about characters following their hearts instead of family expectations, in a small Mexican town called San Angel. Oh, and the leader of an army of bandits called Chakal is in there too, but we hardly get to know him at all.
All of this is beautifully animated, and the movie looks gorgeous on the big screen. Especially the scenes in the Land of the Remembered. So much detail, and color, and I liked the character design too. In the end however, I thought there were too many elements vying for my attention, and if the makers of this film had been more selective about the story they wanted to tell, while also toning down the progressive preaching, I probably would have enjoyed this more.
This is a gorgeous looking film. Bright, colorful, really nicely animated, and its humor is tailored for younger audiences.
For the best experience with this film, I suggest you see it in a theater. At home, a HD viewing on your TV is the next best thing.
I loved the rich detail in the design of the characters, and the overall look of the film.