Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Book of Life

Releases October 17th, 2014
1 hr 35 mins
Rated PG
Action/Adventure, Animated


Director: Jorge Gutierrez


Diego Luna as Manolo
Zoe Saldana as Maria
Channing Tatum as Joaquin
Christina Applegate as Mary Beth
Ice Cube as The Candle Maker
Kate del Castillo as La Muerte
Ron Perlman as Xibalba
Cheech Marin as Pancho Rodriguez
Héctor Elizondo as Manolo's Father
Plácido Domingo as Manolo's Great-Grandfather
Ana de la Reguera as Manolo's Mother
Eugenio Derbez
Gabriel Iglesias as Pepe Rodriguez
Ricardo Sanchez
Danny Trejo as Manolo's Grandfather

Review by Stephen M.

The Book of Life by Reel FX Animation Studio is a stunningly beautiful animation that is a must watch for the whole family.  A wonderful soundtrack, with imaginative characters and colorful designs for both the characters and the lands they inhabit, there is little to fault in this tale based off of various Mexican folklore.  From Day of the Day, Cinco De Mayo, Land of the Remembered to Land of the Forgotten, we see and learn about various aspects of Mexican culture and beliefs in a story within a story.  

The story starts off with delinquent school kids getting a special tour through a museum guided by a beautiful lady.  She tells the tale of a classic love story story of one girl Maria (Zoe Saldana) who has captured the heart of two guys, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum).  Each of the fellows are used as a cosmic pawn by deities that represent what we would be perceived as good and evil in a wager of love.  La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) rules the Land of Remembered which is a festive place for the dead, while Xibalba (Ron Perlman) rules the Land of Forgotten which is quite the opposite. Each of the voice actors does a great job in their roles, even Channing despite his lack of Spanish ancestry.

What I enjoyed most about the film besides the unique boxy puppet animation itself are the beautiful songs especially by Manolo to Maria as well as the humor of the film.  Despite the film having what you call as villains, they are not terribly frightening and thus suitable for even young children who can sit quietly through a film.  The only gripe that I would have about the film is that there is not enough character given to both Manolo and Joaquin's character.  Both lack enough charisma to stand out on their own as the deities and even Maria's character overshadow them.  Manolo with his Sanchez family rich in bullfighters as well, simply overshadows Manolo despite being the male lead.

Overall, I would highly recommend watching the film, as it's a refreshing break from the classic fairy tales we come to enjoy from Disney.  With Maria, a sharp strong female lead with her fencing and martial arts skills, Zoe has picked another great female role following her bad ass role as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy.  The humor of the film is spot on with such lines as when Joaquin asks "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" with a response "Because no one's that big, man!"  As I said before, the film is suitable for young kids and the adults will enjoy as well, so bring the whole family.


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