The Book of Life – animated film review

"The Book of Life" theatrical teaser poster.
“The Book of Life” theatrical teaser poster.
When The Book of Life first came out, I was interested in seeing it, but I never got around to it. I have finally corrected that error. As today is the last day of the Día de Muertos celebration, it is only appropriate I review this film today.

Manolo is from a family with a long tradition of bull fighting, yet he wants only to sing and play the guitar. When he finally faces the bull in a real bull fight, he disappoints his father (and the crowd) by refusing to kill the bull. He is not aware, at first, that he has pleased María, with whom he is in love. After seeing María struck down by a bite from Xibalba’s snake staff, Manolo is despondent enough to want to follow her to the Land of the Remembered.

The animation in The Book of Life is absolutely stunning. Everything looks like it was hand-carved out of wood, complete with slight irregularities, cracks, and not-quite-perfect paint jobs. The attention to detail by the animators makes this film really stand out, placing them in the same league as Pixar and Dreamworks. It’s really that good. I hope to see more from Reel FX Animation in the future.

Diego Luna did a fantastic job voicing Manolo. He gave the character heart and soul, making him feel very real and drawing me into the story. His sincerity really showed through. I look forward to his role in the upcoming Rogue One, the standalone Star Wars film coming out next month.

Zoë Saldana was equally fantastic as the voice of María. She did a wonderful job delivering humorous lines while still sounding serious and realistic. She was strong and decisive, and she didn’t put up with any patronizing from her two suitors (or anyone else, for that matter).

The score in The Book of Life, composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, was beautiful. Luna found out he could sing (and sing well) while working on this film (watch the “Making of” featurettes), and this only adds to the greatness of this film. He creates an earnestness with his earthy, natural voice that adds even more depth to the character of Manolo. Saldana also has a great voice, which pleasantly surprised me (I’d never heard her sing before).

I wish I had seen this film sooner. It is now one of my favorite animated films ever. Its clever weaving of traditional Mexican mythology and new creations from the mind of Jorge R. Gutierrez created something truly spectacular to behold. The color and vibrancy of the scenes grabs your attention and the solid characters hold it. I highly recommend The Book of Life.

Release Date: October 17, 2014 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Language: English (with a touch of Spanish)

MySF Rating: Five point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 100%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (very brief)
Language: 0
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (humorous violence, death)

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