The Book of Life 3D
Animated, Romeo and Juliet-inspired love story set during a Day of the Dead celebration. Co-produced by Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), featuring the voices of Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana and Ron Perlman.
In the land of the living, two young boys, Manolo and Joaquin, are separated from the girl they both love: Maria. In the realm of the dead, a wager is made between La Muerte, ruler of the festive Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, ruler of the rickety Land of the Forgotten. Will Manolo, the sensitive musician, win Maria’s heart? Or will she fall for Joaquin, the brave and powerful soldier? After years apart, Maria returns as a striking young educated woman, with the two men in her life falling for her all over again. However, Xibalba isn’t interested in losing the bet, putting forth a plan to make sure Manolo isn’t around for his bet to backfire.
Animated, Fantasy, Romance, 3D
Rating: PG Violence
Death feels like the best birthday party ever in this Guillermo del Toro production, introducing kids to a vibrant world soaked in a fiesta of colour and constant creativity. It’s a ballsy move to make a family feature about the Day of the Dead, but it’s one that has led to an inspired art direction that works beautifully in motion while setting itself apart from the stock-standard Pixar/Disney/DreamWorks “look”.
The story avoids being complicated: Manolo, a sensitive musician, and Joaquin, a burly soldier, compete to win the heart of the divine Maria, a headstrong woman who is more educated that the two of them combined. Maria shows a good amount of strength and independence, although she is still a ‘thing’ to be ‘won’, and the film never quite escapes this tired idea of ‘possessing the girl’ – especially since a wager hinges on it. The film does earn back many points for its expression of male virtues, lessons on family identity and a smart anti-bull-fighting sequence.
The biggest problem with The Book of Life is how the gorgeously designed world is constantly interrupted with misjudged attempts at being modern and trendy. It’s jarring enough to hear Channing Tatum blurt out “come at me, bro” or Ice Cube doing an urban take on Aladdin’s Genie, but listening to an out-of-place mariachi cover of Radiohead’s 'Creep' takes the try-hard cake. Imagine Frozen’s Elsa building her ice castle to Beyoncé’s 'Single Ladies' – it’s that cringe-worthy.
Time Out London
Entertainment Weekly (USA)
A.V. Club (USA)
New York Times