The Book Of Life (3D)
Cert: U / 95 mins / Dir. Jorge R. Gutierrez
Well, there we go. Mere days after pondering about the enduring films of 2014, the 'oh, that looks quite interesting' trailer for Jorge R. Gutierrez's animated adventure, The Book Of Life, translates itself as quite possibly the most outstanding film I've seen this year. No, really. An energetic folk/fairy tale based around Mexico's Day Of The Dead holiday, this is a film which will work on levels for all audiences, and is a thing of immense beauty.
Guardians of the afterlife, La Muerte and Xibalba's tempestuous relationship is based around observing life on Earth and sharing wagers regarding the outcomes of individual stories. Watching three children playing, two boys (Manolo and Joaquin) chasing the affections of a girl (Maria), Xibalba asserts that the showy braggart Joaquin will win the heart of Maria, rather than his aspiring musician counterpart, Manolo. When La Muerte takes the bet, things spiral to a head and we learn that human nature isn't just limited to humans…
What can I tell you? I haven't had this much fun in a U-rated film since Monsters University. The character design is vibrant and varied, as is the accompanying voice acting, with a post-Burtonesque feel that manages to present a story centred around death in a way which is warm and completely unthreatening. And that's what is; a life affirming, tear-inducing*1 triumph of a film.
A modern-day framing device wraps around the story, allowing for unintrusive narration and letting the narrative skip forward at an advanced rate when needs be. As well as the 3D computer animation, the story-in-a-story also dips into traditional 2D methods to present its own flashback sequences, both styles complementing the Mexican aesthetic perfectly. The script is as sharp and layered as any of the major players have given us in recent years (the film's producers Reel FX Animation are relative newcomers to the cinema arena, most notably giving us 2013's Free Birds). The verbal gags aren't so much subversive as outright geekish, referencing (among others) Anchorman's "I immediately regret this decision", set against a backdrop of visual and slapstick jokes.
Also shining past the visuals and bringing an unashamed smile to my face is the film's soundtrack. A mix of original compositions and Mariachi covers of (again, among others) Radiohead and Mumford & Sons, if the music to this film doesn't have you grinning then you're already living in the Land of the Forgotten…
A joy from start to finish, The Book Of Life succeeds by being bold and different without resorting to garishness. Tales of lost love and reanimation don't come much more heartwarming than this…
Largely, although it still sells the film short a little.
Cinema for the best result, although the 3D's optional (even if it's well implemented).
I just might…
Didn't hear one, but if you did, let me know.
Come on, when was the last time you watch a U-rated movie that directly quoted Kill Bill*2?
*1 Yup. And from both eyes, no less. #unashamed
*2 After a lengthy serenade and lamppost climb to his love's balcony, potential suitor Manolo is met with Maria's almost-kiss and "You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you?" … "Actually, I kinda did." A gorgeous, gorgeous moment.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.