REVIEW — “The Book of Life”
The Book of Life is about the adventure of Manolo (Diego Luna), a young man torn between his family’s traditions and the musical desires of his heart. But there is one thing he is sure of, and that is his love for Maria (Zoe Saldana). However, a supernatural wager is made by the gods La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman), thus turning his fight for Maria into a quest traversing 3 fantastic worlds.
Voice acting surprised me. The film’s ads promote the names of Christina Applegate and Channing Tatum. Both of whom are acceptable but completely forgettable. When it comes to the voicework, the real delight was brought about by the supporting characters like Ron Perlman, Kate del Castillo, Hector Elizondo, Cheech Marin.
The animation bounces back and forth between being exceptionally visionary and uninteresting. Some of the first scenes from the Land of the Remembered were vibrant and beautiful. They took my breath away. Then at other times, despite each marionette character being intricately animated, the scenes as a whole fell visually flat. Which was disappointing, especially for a 3D animated movie.
The story is nothing special. It’s a simple, predictable tale to display the importance of following your heart, loving your family and overcoming your fears. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, just Mexican flavored.
I would like to stress that this movie is for a young audience. In fact, the whole movie takes place because a museum tour guide (Christina Applegate) recounts this legend to a group of children. There are attempts to provide equal enjoyment for adults but hearing mariachi versions of popular songs doesn’t quite cut it. The Book of Life is rosy and silly for children, but it lacks any depth or wit to captivate adults.
I had reluctantly high hopes for this movie, but I was sadly let down. The Book of Life has many moments of fantastic animation, but it isn’t enough to save it from feeling like a straight-to-DVD movie. I think that young children (who aren’t afraid of friendly skeletons) will thoroughly enjoy this movie while adults will simply tolerate it because they love their children.