The Book of Life
Much of what people hear about Mexico is negative. When the country appears on CNN, they tell of a drug lord who is trying to make his way into the States with his product or that the children need donations of water and clothes. They treat this as if Mexico was a third world country, even though I see nothing more then a country that’s more disorganized than dangerous. What most people seem to forget is that Mexico is land where it’s history and culture is filled with riches of artistic merit that has become more present in our American culture.
The Mexican day of the dead is one of their most important holidays as its traditions encourage celebration rather then fear. The scary masks and skeletons wish that we need to remember the people that we’ve lost as our memories of them are their fuel to live in the afterlife. Treating death as a party sounds like an offensive idea, but I find it rather southing, not to mention feeling a bit cultured as I’ve been taught something unique about the customs from the south of the border. Producer Guillermo Del Toro bring us the day of the dead in the animated format of The Book of Life.
In the real world, a bunch of delinquent children are brought to a museum where a tour guide Mary Beth (played by Christina Applegate) takes them to a special room where the title book of life is and proceeds to tell a story from it, using wooden figures that come to life within the tale.
In the Mexican town of San Angel, two gods, La Muerte (played by Kate del Castillo) the ruler of the land of the remembered and Xibala (played by Ron Perlman) the ruler of the land of the forgotten, wager upon two boys that have fallen in love with the same girl is set to determine whether good triumphs evil.
Over the years, Manolo (played by Diego Luna) has been training to be a bullfighter even though he would rather be a musician. His friend Joaquín (played by Channing Tatum) has become a courageous solider that the town loves (though he’s cheated by wearing a magical medal that protects him from death). They both have their hearts set on the adult María (played by Zoe Saldana). Sensing that Manolo has a better chance of winning, Xibala tricks him into getting bitten by a two headed snake. This sends Manolo into the land of the remembered where his ancestors help him find a way back into living.
The Book of Life has an amazing design. I went to a 3D screening of this and was blown away by how beautiful and imaginative this was. It was a great idea to have wooden figurines as the focus as the regular human designs are the only thing bland and fake looking. Human skin seems to be the most difficult thing to computer animate and Book of Life was smart to take another route. The art is to die for, but how’s the content?
Substance was clearly not the focus as I got a bland love story along with a bland hero, bland charmer, bland girl, bland gods, and even bland animal sidekicks. You would think that having a passionate creative mind like Guillermo Del Toro would warrant something with a lot more texture. Oh well, for what it is, the winner here is the animation and look. The day of the dead stuff is even educational and I wouldn’t object a child watching this.
I’ll give this three dead mariachi groups out of five. It’ll probably make for a nice time killer and I might pick up an art of The Book of Life book for my coffee table.