The Book of Life had so much promise. A great director serving as producer (Guillermo del Toro) and an original cultural focus. With The Day of the Dead (dia de los muertos) as a backdrop, this kids animated film could have been the unusual gem to mix concepts of death with a palatable format. Unfortunately, the film fell back on the tired love triangle concept to move the plot along.
I probably would not have been so disappointed in this film if the animation hadn’t been so amazing. This film did things with colors and textures I’ve never seen before. The change in animation from the standard animated kids hearing the story to the wooden toys of the story to the sugar skulls in the Land of the Remembered. It was intriguing to see three different character concepts in one film. The Land of the Remembered was especially eye-catching. If only the story had lingered on the concept more. You stay in the Land of the Remembered until people stop thinking of you and then go to the Land of the Forgotten. Characters can die and then have whole other lives, reunited with lost loved ones and continue “living” in a vibrant and lovely place.
The love story in the center of the film felt forced and unnecessary. Maria (Zoe Saldana), Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Tatum Channing) are all childhood friends. Xibalba and La Muerte wager a bet on whether Maria will fall in love with Manolo or Joaquin. Maria is then sent off to a nunery in Spain. When Maria returns years later, both men instantly fall for her but she is a “strong” and “independent” woman now so she isn’t falling for their charms.
The “strong” woman in film is becoming a stereotype in itself. A woman does not need to think all men are stupid in order to prove she is strong, smart, and capable. Why did Maria learn kung fu while in Spain at a nunery? Why did the male dichotomy have to be stupid/brave versus artsy/emotional?
Why couldn’t it just be a story of three friends?
The music is another place that could have been fresh and different and instead did the standard Dreamworks style of redoing a previously popular song such as Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” and Radiohead’s “Creep.” There were few genuine Mexican musical moments. A unique concept calls for unique music not bad remakes.
A film with so much potential and it chose the easy way out. What did you think of The Book of Life?