The Book of Life
Starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Kate del Castillo, Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Carlos Alazraqui, Emil-Bastien Bouffard, Elias Garza, Genesis Ochoa, Grey DeLisle, and more.
Directed by: Jorge R. Gutierrez Screenplay by: Jorge R. Gutierrez and Douglas Langdale Art Direction by: Paul Sullivan Music by: Gustavo Santaolalla
Premise: Some school delinquents on a trip to the museum get taken to a little known part of place by their tour guide, one dedicated to Mexico. There the kids learn about the Book of Life and the Day of the Dead as their guide spins a tale about a bet between the beautiful La Muerte and Xibalba for control of different parts of the underworld. The bet concerns two boys and a girl and which of the two of them she will choose when she becomes old enough to marry. (Rated PG)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: A really nice mashup of talent was used to fill the cast of characters for the film. Diego Luna and Channing Tatum made for fun friends and rival suitors. Zoe Saldana was spicy and entertaining as always. Ice Cube was quite amusing as the Candle Maker. Emil, Elias, and Genesis were adorable as the voices for the three children. Ron Perlman and Kate del Castillo as Xiblaba and La Muerte were also a ton of fun. Grey DeLisle as Manolo's grandmother added some lovely touches of fun as well.
2) Artwork/Animation - Total Thumbs Up: Reel FX Animation Studios (from Dallas!) does some amazing work in the film. The 'real world' is done in a realistic CGI art style. The story of the bet is told using wooden dolls, so when it unfolds and comes to life on the screen, all the characters are wooden dolls. The dead too are wooden, yet at the same time have a totally different texture and look to them. Xibalba (based on Mayan lore) and the Candle Maker were different from all of the above.
And with the thrown in Mexican folklore and flavor, and Reel FX delivers something entirely unique that stands on its own.
The film gives lots to keep your senses entertained. Xibalba's eyes's red skull pupils were utterly fascinating! Loved how they used then in different facings depending on what he was thinking or feeling. The weird green glowing goo and tar like skin, plus the green flamed candles on his shoulders made him a great treat. La Muerte, too, was dazzling in her red dress and painted face, and her gorgeous glowing eyes.
Make sure to look closely at the center of the universe - loved the juxtaposition of the guitar, the skull, and the mustache. Tons of lovely little touches everywhere. And wait till you see what they do with the skeletal bulls!
3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: The best stories are those with multiple levels and themes - and this one had plenty. From the pressures and expectations of family and duty, to parents realizing what they think "best" for their children might not be the case, there were plenty of lessons to be learned by all involved.
While some of the direction the plot takes is expected, there were plenty of other places where it will surprise you. Lots of fun!
4) Music - Total Thumbs Up: The music department likes to play! While layered with a lot of traditional Mexican styles of music, pay close attention to the lyrics of what the characters are singing. If you do, you'll find several of the songs sounding eerily familiar. In a couple of spots, that recognition will make the hijinx going on even more of a treat!
Conclusion: "The Book of Life" if a color filled, multi layered adventure with fun for everyone. The medium is unique, and the music/lyrics an extra layer of fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission to See Again)