Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Movie Review: The Book of Life (2014)

The Book of Life (2014) directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez

A school trip to the museum for a set of misfits leads them to a special exhibit on the Mexican Day of the Dead (November 2). Part of the exhibit is The Book of Life, which tells stories (both true and false) from Mexican history. One story is about a town where two boys are in love with the same girl. One boy, Manolo, is the son of a bullfighter but he wants to be a troubadour; the other boy, Joaquin, is the son of a soldier and can't wait to become one. Two warring spirits from the afterlife, La Muerte (leader of the Realm of the Remembered) and Xibalba (leader of the Realm of the Forgotten), bet on which boy will win the girl's hand. Xibalba is a bit of a cheater and gives the future soldier a medal that will keep him from harm, so you know his career will go well. Manolo has a tough time in his career--even though he has great skills in the ring, he doesn't kill the bull and would rather play with the mariachi band. The girl goes off to school in Europe, giving the boys time to grow up and make something of themselves. When she gets back, the action takes off.

While the early plot is a fairly standard one, the execution is amazing. The movie has a lot of Mexican culture and myths. The animation style follows the flamboyantly exuberant Day of the Dead celebrations. It's gorgeous to look at and I found myself drinking in the background images because they are so detailed. The humor and characters are engaging. The movie is visually inventive and original and enjoyable. It's a fun movie for kids.

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