Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez
Written by Jorge R. Gutierrez and Douglas Langdale
Release Date: 17 October 2014
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Editorís Rating: 4 out of 4 Chuys
Before I talk about this film, I need to talk about my history with the filmís creators. Jorge R. Gutierrez and his wife, Sandra Equihua, made a kidís show for Nickelodeon called El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. It had pretty heavy reruns on the Nickelís Nicktoons channel a few years back, and after a little while, I watched the crap out of it. It was funny, irreverent, and intelligent while also tossing in a little education and respect for Mexican culture. It also featured great animation, an interesting visual style that never really got boring to look at, and the voice acting was superb. With the exception of Invader Zim, it was the best cartoon on Nicktoons at the time, and itís stayed up there in my opinion, even if it hasnít stayed on the channel.
So a few years down the line, I see this film and couldnít help but be intrigued. The art was strikingly similar to El Tigre, and it was steeped in Mexican culture, something thatís always a plus for me, being part Mexican and whatnot. However, like most films I want to see, I didnít. It wasnít on my radar until a few months ago, when the animation company that brought The Book of Life, well, to life, came into my day job and gave a little presentation. They showed us some Oculus Rift-type goodies and wowed us with their demo reel, then put out a little mailing list if we wanted to receive the film for free! Well, being one to never say no to free stuff, my name was the first on the list. However, I never received it. But that was okay, because I got it for my birthday! And I just watched it two nights ago.
Iím bad with watching things. However, Iím very decent with writing things, so hereís this.
The story of the film is, in essence, very straightforward. Itís a love triangle that gets twisted up with a couple of Faustian bargains set in the heart of Mexico. But if I havenít made that clear already, itís the way the world is constructed with with so much care and attention to detail that makes it stand above the rest. The whole story is supposed to be told through a set of wooden dolls, and the detail made to bring that true to life is astounding. The action of the film centers around Manolo, Joaquin, and Maria, childhood friends and members of the aforementioned love triangle. Manolo comes from the Sanchez family of bullfighters, and harbors the secret, forbidden desire to become a musician. Joaquin is the orphaned son of the townís great general. Maria is the daughter of the townís current general, and an independent woman who doesnít feel the need to be owned by any man. Both Manolo and Joaquin spend a good part of the movie vying for Mariaís affections, and their competition has terrible consequences, leading to an epic adventure of redemption and, oddly enough, skulls.
The Book of Life is one of those films that leaves you thinking two things: ďWhat did I just watch?Ē and ďWhy isnít there more of this?Ē An animated film with an utter abandon of restraint regarding color and with an animation style that only gets more beautiful the higher resolution you see it in, The Book of Life is a feast for the eyes. Based around the Mexican holiday El Dia De Los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, intricately-decorated sugar skulls and bright, vibrant colors abound. The characters are mostly wooden figurines, which are also vibrantly decorated with so much detail that just pausing the film makes for a beautiful frame that you could keep looking at to absorb all the detail Gutierrez and crew pack in.
Thatís not even mentioning the voice acting the film has to offer. Featuring an all-star cast and a whoís who of Latino voice actors, including Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Carlos Alazraqui, Cheech Marin, Gabriel Iglesias, Hector Elizondo, and Kate Del Castillo. There are also several other great actors as well like Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, and Ice Cube. Theyíre a great blend of cheesy, serious, fun, and funny, and bring the voices of this unique world to life in the same way that the visuals spark the eye.
All in all, this film took me a bit to finally see, but after it was all said and done, Iím immensely happy that I got a chance to see it, and Iím glad I own it. My little Mexican heart warms watching this movie, and I truly hope you all can get a chance to check it out.
**I was not compensated for this review.**