I gotta say, kids...it never occurred to me that I would enjoy a 3-D animated film about Día de los Muertos, but there I was this week, really digging one such offering, the Guillermo del Toro-produced, Mexican-folklore-celebrating The Book of Life.
The story – about a trio of childhood friends (two boys, one girl), and the cosmic wager that these two forces of nature (La Muerte, the lady of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, the discontented lord of the Land of the Forgotten) take on regarding their future love lives – was most engaging.
No doubt, this was surprisingly adult stuff for a family film, but it’s not like they showed anything questionable.
The boys, Manolo (grown-up-voiced by Diego Luna) and Joaquín (Channing Tatum), and María (Zoë Saldana), while full o’ personality, maintain a PG-friendly generic-ness to ’em that is more than palatable for the little ones (kudos to the powers that be for insisting on giving her an I-don’t-a-man sort of feminist ’tude). Each of the guys is a ying to a yang: Manolo is a singer; Joaquín’s more of a fighter. They’re both noble, but the latter’s a bit more entitled. And Maria, well...like I said, she’s her own woman, and she knows what she wants.
The great fun of The Book of Life is to see all three come into their own, this in spite of any supernatural meddling, in a production that is just so colorful and inventively alive (even the sequences set in the after-life, which where Manolo’s journey takes him to get the – Spoiler Alert! – girl).
I would argue that the plot could have been a bit as, if not more inventive than the mariachi take on the Mumford & Sons hit “I Will Wait” they used in the film, but, hey...if it ain’t broke, right?
My Rating ***
Photo: 20th Century Fox.