Movie Name: The Book of Life
Studio: Reel FX Creative Studios
Release Date(s): October 12, 2014 (Premiere)/October 17, 2014 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG
A school tour is given one of the secret stories of the Book of Life. Xibalba (rule of the Land of the Forgotten) and his wife La Muerte (ruler of the Land of the Remembered) have made a bet. Maria Posada is admired by both Manolo Sánchez and Joaquin Mondragon, and Xibalba is backing Joaquin while La Muerte is backing Manola. When Xibalba interferes in the game by giving Joaquin the advantage, Manola will have to face death itself to try to win the woman he loves.
Written and directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, The Book of Life is a family animated musical. The movie was released to relatively positive reviews and a strong box office.
I have to admit that I wasn’t very interested in The Book of Life. It looked like every other animated film out there. Having now seen the movie, I’ll admit that the movie does have its moments, but unfortunately, it also can be quite dull at times.
The story is set up in a framework of the story being told to a group of children in a secret wing of a museum. The framework does pay off in the end, but the real meat of the story is the story itself. The battle between the two gods has a nice Greek mythology feel and the basic romance is also nice…but the movie takes too long to get going and also drags out in an end fight.
The movie had a strong cast of vocal actors. Diego Luna is the voice of the hero Manolo, and Channing Tatum provides the voice of his rival Joaquin. The love interest of both character is voiced by Zoe Saldana. Other voice actors include Ice Cube, Plácido Domingo, Gabriel Iglesias, Cheech Marin, Troy Evans, and the film’s producer Guillermo del Toro.
The animation and style of the film is what does help The Book of Life. The movie makes the characters all look like puppets (which ties into the idea that they are all being controlled by the gods). This is combined with a soundtrack that utilizes popular songs like Radiohead’s “Creep”. I wish that this aspect had been pushed harder to give a Moulin Rouge-esque feel that really blended genres and styles.
The Book of Life feels like a different, non-Disney film. The movie has a weird blend of animation and music but it just does not quite get over the hump it needs to clear to make it really distinctive. It is interesting and unique, but lulls int he story hinder it from being truly original…The Book of Life is one of those borderline films that just needed a little more pushing to be great.