{Reel Reviews} The Book Of Life Film Review: Best Latin-Tinged Mumford & Sons Cover Yet

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Tweetable Takeaway: How would Radiohead’s “Creep” and Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” sound re-imagined as Latin music? Muy espectacular.

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 answers the musical question that’s been burning in my mind for years: How would Radiohead’s Creep and Mumford and Sons’ I Will Wait sound re-imagined as Latin music? The answer: Muy espectacular.

The movie itself is pretty darn enjoyable too. The plot begins with a museum tour in which a bunch of miscreants are told the main story of the movie through wooden marionettes. The marionettes are thankfully uncreepy, and give the animation a unique look throughout.

Now hold on to your sombreros for the main plot synopsis: the leaders of the two worlds of the dead, one that’s an eternal fiesta as the land of the remembered, the other an unsaturated realm of the forgotten, have a bet over what male will win in a love triangle. On one hand you have sensitive musician Manolo, voiced by Diego Luna. Manolo is pressured by his father to become a highly skilled and famous bullfighter; only problem is Manolo refuses to kill the bull.

On the other hand is battle-hungry Joaquin, with Channing Tatum providing the surprisingly effective voice. Joaquin too has family pressures to live up to as his father was a famous war hero.

The object of their affection is Maria, voiced by Zoe Saldana, who isn’t so easily won by their serenading and swordsmanship. Maria is a refreshing female character in that she can often hold her own, whether it be with words or a sword. She often rebuffs Manolo and Joaquin’s advances, refusing to be relegated to the object of affection status. It’s too bad, then, that halfway through the movie, that’s exactly where she’s placed.

When Maria is bit by a snake, Manolo believes her to be dead, and lets the snake bite him as well. But once in the land of the dead, he realizes that Maria lived, and he has no way of getting back to her.

End of movie, right?

Okay, there’s a little more. Manolo travels, sings, and bullfights his way back to the land of the living so he can be with Maria again. Along the way he and other characters learn important lessons that never feel heavy-handed, but rather arise from the circumstances of the story and feel that much more natural. There are some serious themes of dealing with the loss of loved ones, hard to avoid in a movie about the Day of the Dead, but the movie handles it in a light and appropriate way for children. The movie says that as long as we remember those who are gone, there is a little bit of them that lives on in our memories of them. Additionally, the theme of forging a path that goes against what your family or society expects of you is one of the strongest of the movies.

There is a fear that by meeting such a huge amount of characters and themes along the way, the movie will become overwhelming, much like this year’s earlier Rio 2. Instead, the plot moves quicker than the poor sap at the back of the running of the bulls, and it all fits together. There are jokes that miss, but the ones that hit had me giving genuine chortles. At one point a kid selling churros has a bird lay white waste to his product, and the kid now exclaims, “Frosted churros!” There is a pig who with a little more screentime might have been this year’s Olaf. Rooted strongly in Mexican culture, The Book of Life feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the talking animal fare that usually dominated the animated scene. The Book of Life also packs several emotional punches throughout that elevate it to one of the year’s best-animated features. This is a movie that entertains, touches, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I give it 4.5 churros out of 5.

 

Score:  4.5 out of 5

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Wil lives, breathes, and loves movies. On applications he will often list the movie theater as his second residence, and the usher as his emergency contact.
Twitter: @bilDoper

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