The Book of Life (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, PG)

The-Book-of-Life 75Praising Halloween just like Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Book of Life focuses mainly on impressive visuals.


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Produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed and co-written by Jorge Gutierrez comes the new animated adventure/fantasy about Mexican culture. The Book of Life takes place on Dia de los Muertos—aka Day of the Dead. As the movie opens, we are plunged into a story occurring between three fictional worlds, all located in Mexico: “the center of the universe.”

The Land of the Living (equal to our Earth) is where we meet Maria (voiced by Zoe Saldana) and her two best friends, Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Manolo (Diego Luna). The Land of the Remembered (similar to our Heaven) is a joyful, vibrant place with fiestas everyday. It is ruled by the loving La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), for the souls of the dead who are still remembered by their loved ones in The Land of the Living. In contrast, The Land of the Forgotten (comparable to our Hell) is a depressing, empty, scary place that lacks color and energy. It, in turn, is ruled by the cheating, selfish Xibalba (Rob Perlman), who wants to control The Land of the Remembered instead. To begin the plot, these two rulers make a wager about who will one day marry Maria. La Muerte picks Manolo, the passionate musician, while Xibalba chooses the overly confident Joaquin, giving the latter an enchanted medal that makes him invincible and basically undefeatable.

Praising Halloween just like Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Book of Life focuses mainly on impressive visuals. The film has some captivating animation produced by Reel FX Creative Studios, Twentieth Century Fox Animation, and Chatrone. Its wooden characters, in combination with the beautiful scenery of each shot, really come to life in 3D. The whole piece is brought together with lively music by Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel), as well as modern pop tracks (such as Radiohead’s “Creep”) that are surprisingly well performed by Luna and Saldana themselves. Just as Gutierrez wanted, everyone “poured their heart and soul into the idea,” and together with del Toro, they succeeded in creating a visually stunning experience full of Latin American folklore and art, celebrating the Mexican holiday.

Even though the movie is heavily based on Mexican customs and full of local traditions, it does a pretty decent job of explaining everything in enough detail for the non-Hispanic viewer to easily understand and follow the basic story. Some of the dialogue is spoken too quickly (and in a strong, artificial Mexican accent) for everyone to catch, and a few jokes are thrown out mainly for the adults. But overall, this movie can be entertaining for children as well as their parents.

Other than to not expect too much humor (compared to, for example, The Lego Movie), I suggest viewing The Book of Life for an ultimate, visually striking experience. | Lea Vrábelová

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