written by Alexandra Wade
A new family movie, the mystical “The Book of Life”, is fun, original and beautifully animated. Featuring a journey from the Mexican town of San Angel through two different parts of the underworld, “The Book of Life” is a fun celebration of Mexican folklore and pop culture.
The story centers on the sassy, independent Maria (Zoe Saldana) and her friends, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum). Manolo is a passionate guitarist who comes from a long line of champion bullfighters. Pressured by his father, he becomes an accomplished toreador as well, but is too gentle to ever kill the bull. Joaquin also tries to live up to his family’s legacy, becoming the town’s hero.
Unknown to the three friends, Xibalba, creepy king of the underworld and La Muerte, the underworld’s colorful and vibrant queen, made a bet over which boy Maria would marry when the three friends were children. When Xibalba cheats to win the bet, he unwittingly sends Manolo on a journey through the underworld and starts a series of events that will change the friends’ lives.
The highlights of the movie are the visuals and the soundtrack. The animation seems completely new, full of eye-popping colors and textures that draw from Mexican culture. Familiar radio hits are arranged into new, but just-as-catchy, tunes that will entertain kids and draw laughs from adults. The cast is also well-formed and fun.
Some of the movie’s themes are serious, as it uses the Day of the Dead and a trip to the underworld as major plot points, and there are some potentially-scary moments scattered throughout. But love, family, and doing what is right are what the movie is truly about, and it’s a great chance to learn more about Mexican culture.