Movies based in Mexico tend to bring to mind images of poor young men, gangs, shootings, drugs and either grisly deaths or lives spent in grotty, over-crowded prisons. So it is utterly refreshing to view the enthralling new animated movie from Reel FX Creative Studios, The Book of Life.
The basic story is an age-old love scenario - three little playmates (2 boys, 1 girl), girl goes away to school and comes back a beautiful woman. Both the boys fall in love with her, and a tug-of-war over her affections begins. The Mexican twist involves the bet between the spirits La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, who are backing each boy as the winner. The stakes are high and Xibalba isn’t above a little interference in the hope that the result swings his way.
Vocal talents include Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Ron Perlman and Christina Applegate. It is noted as being a musical, with the original music written and produced by Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams, both heavyweights in the movie/music industry. A few popular modern songs putting on an appearance, but the movie would be a hit even without these additions to the score.
The 3D animation is beautiful, and stands out against the styles of the big studios such as Dreamworks and Pixar. Mexico is brought to life through bold colours, delicate figures and a magnificent detailing of the Land of the Remembered during the Day of the Dead. The voice cast is spot on, and the storyline is gripping enough for both adults and children to get drawn into the plot. It may lack the “adult only humour” that makes some animated films appeal to all ages but the love story and battle between the spirits is enough to keep everyone entertained.
The moral of the film is that it is important for everyone to “write their own story”, hence the title The Book of Life. Whether you come out pondering this notion, or just come out smiling it is worth the cost of the movie ticket. If you have small people in your household take them to see it during the school holidays. If you don’t have children, go and see it anyway – but maybe attend an evening showing if you want to avoid kiddies in the audience!