Double Feature Part 1: Book of Life Review

Today I decided to go to the movies! In fact, I decided to go to two of them! Book of Life and The Boxtrolls and boy did I have a fantastic time at the movies!  Anyone who thinks Hollywood has stopped making original stories hasn’t seen these 2 animated features.  I liked them both a lot.  Perhaps Boxtrolls a little bit more than A Book of Life but they were both great!

book of life

I am going to try and be less detailed in this review than some of my others because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Book of Life is a very complicated story (perhaps too complicated?) but it starts out in America somewhere and a tour guide tells some rebellious children that it is the Day of the Dead and their is a famous myth told from the Book of Life.

This narration is completely unnecessary.  Why does Hollywood always make a white person tell an ethnic group’s story?  The Rulers should have done the narration.

The rulers are Xibalba that rules The Land of the Forgotten (voiced by Ron Perlman) and Muerte ruler of The Land of the Remembered.  Basically as long as your progeny remember their ancestors you are in the Land of the Remembered when you die.  Cool concept right?

They make a bet over which of 2 boys, Joaquin and Manolo will marry Maria.  The voice casting in this movie is a problem.  Why not Penelope Cruise, Javier Bardem, or Salma Hayek?  So many great latino actors they could have used but Channing Tatem?  It sticks out like a sore thumb.  Diego Luna who is Manolo is good but Zoe Saldana is miscast as Maria.  Even latino actors like Hector Elizondo sound very American.  I wished they’d let their accents flow more freely.

The dialogue is also very modern and distracting and there are a lot of characters to keep track of in each of the lands.  If I was a kid I might be pretty confused with the story.

The worlds are amazing.

land of remembered
Land of the Remembered
San Angel the Mexican town of the story

Also the design of the people were neat.  The museum guide is telling the story using wooden dolls so everyone looks like they are made of wood.  Then when they venture to the other lands they turn into Day of the Dead etched wood.

made of wood
You can see how the characters are made of wood.  Manolo, Joaquin and Maria
day of the dead
This is the Day of the Dead look in the Land of the Remembered

They are consistent with the wood look even to the bulls, pigs and villains look like carvings.  It’s very cool.

I also liked the 3 lead characters.  Maria is a pretty layered female character.  Not just the damsel in distress or the warrior although she has moments of both.  She likes both Manolo and Joaquin and that’s probably because the movie makes both very likable.  In these kind of movies usually Joaquin would be a total jerk, a pompous Gaston type and he has moments like that but enough softer moments to understand why Maria might pick him.  The three remain friends throughout despite being romantic rivals and I thought that was neat.

The story is very complicated and it is a little bit too long, maybe one fight scene with Chakal too many.  Also the music is a mixture of original songs and covers of song like s I Will Wait and Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.  The original songs are kind of forgettable but not bad.  They could have had more of a latin flair to them.  The score is very good by Gustavo Santaolalla.

I also really liked the message of remembering those who have gone on before us and honoring all they have given us. Also the idea that if you are remembered you never really die.  That’s lovely.

But really the reason to see this movie is the animation.  It is stunning and the story is good enough to give it a hearty recommendation.  My friend said her kids did Ok following it and enjoyed it.  It’s not perfect but I really liked it.  I would definitely try to see it in 3D on the big screen if you can.  Definitely on HD so you get the full effect of the bright colors.

Content Grade- A    Overall Grade B+

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