Title: The Book of Life
Director: Jorge R. Gutierrez
Release Date: October 17, 2014
Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 95 minutes
● Diego Luna
● Zoe Saldana
● Channing Tatum
Kid Friendly Rating: A good Disney analog is the animated Hercules (1997). The film delves significantly into death and the underworld, but it is presented in a firmly fantastical manner. Light romance does not venture beyond courtship and tasteful kissing. Some dark monsters and violence may be scary for young children. Click here for the Parent Rating Guide!
Personal Rating: 3.5/5
Synopsis: The story begins with a children’s museum tour. At the museum, the tour guide tells the children a story from The Book of Life, a book that allegedly contains all stories that have ever been told. This story focuses on the mythical town of San Angel in Mexico. San Angel is celebrating The Day of the Dead, a day on which those who have been lost are fondly remembered. Observing the festival are La Muerte, kind ruler of The Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, cynical ruler of The Land of the Forgotten. La Muerte and Xibalba observe two young boys, Malolo and Joaquin, striving for the attention of their young female friend, Maria. La Muerte and Xibalba decide to set a wager, each betting that one of the boys will marry Maria. If Malolo succeeds, Xibalba with cease meddling in the affairs of humans. If Joaquin succeeds, La Muerte will exchange rulership of the realms with Xibalba. The movie skips forward several years, when the three children reunite as young adults struggling under the weight of their parents’ expectations. After Malolo and Joaquin resume their good-natured rivalry for Maria’s affection, Xibalba’s continued meddling sets matters on a crash course.
La Muerte: The world keeps spinning, and the tales keep turning, and people come and people go, but they’re never forgotten. And the one truth we know, it held true one more time… That love, true love, the really, really good kind of love never dies.
Joaquin: Those are some big shadows we live under, hey buddy?
Ron Perlman, who voices Xibalba, is a veteran of several of producer Guillermo del Toro’s films, including Hellboy, Pacific Rim, and Cronos
I’ve been intrigued by this movie since I first saw Guillermo del Toro’s name attached to it, and I don’t feel let down. This movie is a fun change from your typical animated fare. The animation style is unusual, but arresting. The immersion in Mexican culture also feels fresh, although perhaps not surprising given del Toro’s and Gutierrez’s roots as Mexican nationals. Parents will find that the movie touches upon several positive themes, including honesty, what it means to be courageous, and being true to oneself. The movie also does not shy away from more complicated topics, like family dynamics and the sometimes gray areas between good and evil. A bit of slapstick humor and dry wit helps lighten some of the dramatic and ominous overtones. The plot is a bit complicated, particularly in the beginning, so it may be better suited for adults (or children with patient parents), but as the story goes along it becomes easier to follow. The adults in the room may also enjoy some Mexican-influenced versions of pop favorites like Radiohead’s “Creep” or Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.” I think it’s a great change of pace for a family movie night.