Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

“The Book of Life,”

Tuesday the 9th, we went to see “The Book of Life,” the new animated movie by Guillermo del Toro (among others). This beautiful film is set in a mythic world where Mexico is the “center of the world,” and the town of San Angel, the center of Mexico. Three children, the vivacious Maria (Zoe Saldana), the soulful Manolo (Diego Luna), and the dashing Joaquin (Channing Tatum) become the subject of a wager between the Lords of the Dead. Ugly Xibalba (Ron Perlman) is tired of ruling the gray and despondent Land of the Forgotten, and wants to trade places with the beautiful La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) who rules the colorful and joyous Land of the Remembered. Their wager is on which of the two boys Maria will eventually marry, Xibalba choosing Joaquin, and La Muerte, Manolo. If Xibalba wins, he gets the Land of the Remembered. If he loses, he must cease meddling in the affairs of the living.

The plot is mostly straightforward and satisfying, with a few twists to keep it fresh. The movie design is bold and unique. In a framing device, schoolchildren visiting a museum are told the story by a docent, using wooden toy figures to illustrate it. We then see the action played out, but the people still are made of wood, with visible, toylike joints. Even given that, many of the characters are extremely stylized, old men in particular tending to have long snoutlike noses, influenced by Basil Wolverton or Mad Magazine. The visions of the lands of the dead are of course based on the folk art prevalent at the Day of the Dead time, with decorated skulls a particular motif. The result is one of the most visually creative and exhilarating films seen in years.

All the voice acting was quite good, with a few surprises (Placido Domingo!). The sound track was also enchantingly eclectic, ranging from mariachi and opera to pop ballads and original pieces.

Most highly recommended and good for most ages. Some scenes may be too intense for the younger viewer.

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Tags: animation, fantasy, movies
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