Movies: The Book of Life

Voices By: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum
Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez
Written By: Jorge R. Gutierrez & Douglas Langdale
Reel FX, 2014
PG; 95 minutes
3.5 stars (out of 5)


Definitely a different look and feel to this movie than most other children's animated features these days. And I love that The Book of Life introduces my kids to a different culture. The story, too, was pretty cute: La Muerte and Xibalba make a wager on which of two young boys would grow up to marry their friend Maria (voiced by Zoe Saldana). La Muerte chooses Manolo Sanchez (Diego Luna) while Xibalba selects Joaquin (Channing Tatum).

The stylized animation of having the characters look like wooden puppets is quite visually interesting. I have a thing about noses, though, so some of the character designs did not appeal to me. That's a personal bias, of course. On the whole, the use of color and such was well done.

I did find some of the reworked pop songs a bit distracting, though. They just pulled me right out of the story. Sure, I like the songs, and I wouldn't say no to the soundtrack, but as used in the movie they called too much attention to themselves.

And then there was the voice acting. I know it's not a science and is largely subjective. But while the supporting cast was great (Ron Perlman, Cheech Marin, Ice Cube, Plácido Domingo all spring to mind), I definitely had a sense the main three were . . . I don't know. It wasn't quite there for me. Channing Tatum just sounded like himself, so that I kept picturing Channing Tatum with a mustache, and it wasn't a pretty mental image. There was such monotony in the dialogue with him. I wonder if he literally phoned it in.

But again, that's all subjective. The film itself is cute and different, and my kids came out of it mostly happy, though they also said it was "a little weird." My daughter had trouble figuring out who she was supposed to be cheering for and who was the bad guy. But Día de los Muertos is not so different from our All Saints in New Orleans, so it's nice to have a place to start from when talking to them about things like that.

The Book of Life also sort of made me wish for a children's version of the Eurydice and Orpheus tale. Though I suppose that would need a happier ending. But hey, if The Little Mermaid can have a happily ever after . . .

No comments: