Advance Review: The Book Of Life

The Book Of Life

The Book Of Life

This review is spoiler-free, containing only plot points found in the trailers.

Walking into The Book Of Life, I had a single expectation: A visually stunning movie.  I’m happy to say that it exceeded my expectations in the visual department, and on top of that was so much more.

The plot of The Book Of Life revolves around The Day Of The Dead.  As an ignorant American, I always thought this was a Latin American version of Halloween.  However, the movie dives into the Mexican tradition and folklore of this holiday, which is more about remembering those you have lost, paying tribute to them so they are never forgotten.

Our focus in the movie revolves around three childhood friends in Mexico.  Manolo (Diego Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Joe Saldana) are referred to as “The Three Amigos,” children who spend all their waking hours together, getting into all sorts of trouble.  When an incident causes their parents to step in to force the kids to grow up faster, they all are set on different paths.  Maria is sent to Europe to learn how to be a proper lady.  Manolo starts training with his father to become a bull fighter like all the men in their family.  Joaquin starts on a path to become a great hero like his deceased father.

At the beginning of this journey, in The Land of the Dead, the ruler of The Land of The Forgotten, Xibalba (Ron Perlman) makes a wager with the ruler of The Land of The Remembered, La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) over who will win the heart of Maria.  Xibalba places his bet on Joaquin, while La Muerte believes in Manolo.  Xibalba, determined to win, cheats, intervening with the course of nature, giving Joaquin numerous unfair advantages.  These advantages take numerous characters on quite a journey through The Land Of The Dead as well as The Land of The Living.

As I mentioned above, the visuals in this movie are absolutely gorgeous.  Being produced by Guillermo del Toro, who previously has brought the worlds of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Pacific Rim to life on the screen, I expected nothing less than amazing.  Mexico, The Land Of The Remembered, and The Land Of Forgotten are all lush, colorful explosions of landscapes, never leaving you without something interesting to look at.  The character designs have all the characters looking and moving like marionette dolls (minus the strings).  There’s no better way to describe the look of this movie than with one of my favorite quotes from Sealab 2021 from Captain Murphy: “It’s like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain!”

The voice cast is very impressive as well.  To add to our main players mentioned above, Christina Applegate, Cheech Maron, Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Carlos Alazraqui, Plácido Domingo and Ice Cube (who has the best line in the movie that no one but me and my friend in the theater understood) all lend their voices to characters in The Book Of Life, making the world it creates even more fun.

To add to the great voice cast, the soundtrack of the movie has a number of great original songs, as well as recognizable songs from Mumford and Sons, Rod Stewart, Biz Markie and Radiohead, all with fun Latin flavors added to them.

Finally, I did see The Book Of Life in 3D.  The only reason I saw it this way is because it was free.  While there were a few scenes where the 3D really popped, ultimately it added nothing to the experience of the movie, as I generally find the case to be.  If you’re a 3D nut, by all means see it this way, but you will also get the full experience of the movie in the more traditional 2D experience.

The Book Of Life is fun for all ages.  Being an animated movie with bright colors, kids will likely be begging their parents to see it.  However, it offered a much richer story than I was expecting, and I think that adults will enjoy the movie just as much, if not more than children.  No matter what your age, you also might just learn something about another culture if you’re not already familiar with it 🙂

The Book Of Life hits theaters Friday, October 17th.

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