run time: 95 mins
considered: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
director: Jorge R. Gutierrez
starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Pearlman, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Kate del Castillo, Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Carlos Alazraqui, Ana de la Regular, Emil-Bastien Bouffard, Elias Garza, Genesis Ochoa, Placid Domingo
movie summary: A school bus full of children pull up to the local museum for a dreaded tour of ancient times. The kids have zero interest in the museum until a beautiful woman steps through the doors and leads them into a secret room filled with artifacts. At the end of the dark dusty corridor is a table with a giant book entitled “The Book of Life.” The kids are interested in the book and what the story is about when she pulls out a bunch of toy figures to help describe the events of the book.
The Book of Life revolves around three characters and their families. Centuries ago in a small Mexican town, the people were celebrating the day of the dead. Manolo (Emil-Bastien Bouffard/Diego Luna) is best friends with Joaquin (Elias Garza/Channing Tatum) and both are madly in love with the beautiful Maria (Genesis Ochoa/Zoe Saldana). Together the three are inseparable until the trio run into trouble and Maria’s dad sends her away for school. The boys are heartbroken but vow to win her love when she returns.
Manolo’s dad is the town’s greatest bull fighter and carries the family legacy of bull fighting. He has tried for years to train Manolo, even though his heart is set on being a singer. Maria gave him a brand new guitar when she left and he carries it with him where ever he goes. Joaquin on the other hand is sent off to military school where he turns out to be the greatest fighter the town has ever had, second only to his legendary father. The boys grow into men with one having major success, while the other struggles to deal with a family legacy he doesn’t want to be a part of. When Maria returns, Joaquin makes a triumph return to the town, while Manolo finally gives in and enters the ring with a bull.
In the shadows of the town, La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and her husband Xibalba (Ron Pearlman) watch as the young lovers fight for the right to earn Maria’s hand in marriage. As the rulers of the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten, the two spirits place a friendly wager on whether Manolo and Joaquin will overcome the odds and be the victor.
Maria is flattered by both guy’s efforts to win her over by her dad wants her to marry Joaquin so he can protect the town. Her heart wants Manolo since he’s not out for glory and praise, but is down to earth and honest. Xibalba doesn’t like the way things are playing out for his side of the bet, so decides to get involved in their lives on earth and cause a chain reaction of bad events that change the course of human history.
my thoughts: In 2014 there have been a handful of hit and miss animated movies. Despite having amazing animation, I was not a fan of The Boxtrolls last month. When I saw the trailer for The Book of Life I was a tad bit skeptical of the animation and storyline, like Boxtrolls, but went to see it anyways. Much to my surprise, The Book of Life was a great movie jammed packed with laughs, action, and charm. Every character in the story is beautifully handcrafted and voiced by talented names. If you find yourself drawn into the story about good vs. evil or Manolo vs. Joaquin, then you’d definitely be able to get lost in the animation.
The Book of Life takes the classic tale of two guys fighting for the same girl and base it around the great Mexican tradition, Day of the Dead. Not only do the creators use the widely celebrated holiday to sell the story, they throw in the rulers of the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten for a more dramatic effect. One would think that there is way too much to digest while watching a kids animated movie, but it flows together smoothly and you will never feel lost or rushed.
You may be surprised to learn that Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, and Diego Luna voiced the leading characters. Through out their careers these names have never been known to lend their voices to other characters other than themselves. They do a fantastic job bringing Manolo, Joaquin, and Maria to life and getting the audience to laugh out loud. Most members of the audience will pick a character and get behind them with the hope that they will win Maria’s heart at the end. The great thing about this is we get to watch them bend over backwards to be the victor which adds so many humorous scenes to the story.
There was no reason for La Muerte and Xibalba to be included, even though it did add an intriguing element to the story. La Muerte is the charming and smart ruler, while her husband is dark, mysterious, and ruthless. He wants to control both after worlds and will go to get extremes to help Joaquin win, even though it is not the best conclusion for everyone involved. Xibalba is so preoccupied with this thirst of power that he doesn’t realize the wonderful things he is destroying both above and below ground. Audiences won’t view him as an evil ruler, someone who could scare little kids, but more as someone who willing to sacrifice everything he has for something he may never get. These two characters have just as much of an impact on the story and it’s outcome then the main characters.
my final thoughts: I would highly recommend catching The Book of Life at some point on the big screen. This charming story is funny and beautifully animated which will keep everyone entertained. It has been certified fresh thanks to great reviews, which is very well deserved.
my star rating: 7 out 10
imdb: 7.7 out 10
rottentomatoes: 80% out 100%
rogerebert: 2 out 4