By Joseph Barnes (United Kingdom)
Having just seen this film a very short time ago: I figured this would be the best optimal time to start doing what I’ve been wanting to do for months; writing and posting film reviews! 😀
The Book of Life is an animated, adventure comedy directed and written by Jorge R. Gutierrez making his film directorial debut (shorts aside) also enlists the assistance of Reel FX Animations Studios and tycoon studio 20th Century Fox. It also features Guillermo Del Toro as one of the main producers: which certainly excited me seeing the trailers given his work in the last year or two. There weren’t many animated films this year that have caught my interest, but since around the summertime this was the one I wanted to see (before Big Hero 6 of course). My expectations weren’t high as the film was targeted at a family audience, all I was looking for a transporting, beautiful looking film with colourful characters and some good comedy. I’ve tried to be a bit more objective when reviewing films, as I feared people wouldn’t take kindly to them, so I’ll just sum up what I liked and didn’t like as much about The Book of Life.
Likes: What you’re likes are mine all the same! Simply put: the film looks breathtaking! The 3D computer animation works wonders here at giving us fleshed out, vibrant, colourful, fun and distinct looking worlds that I could watch for hours! This is this kind of film that 3D animation does best at in my opinion, which is made even stronger by the fact that it would look much more stilted and restrained if it were 2D animated. This is because the design of the characters look like wooden carvings and their movements would look… well you get the idea. It’s the definition of eye-candy and I enjoyed every second watching it!
The character designs, particularly the Gods of the Remembered/Forgotten characters (La Muerte and Xibalba) look amazing! They’re all like wooden carvings that were put into stop-motion that later on went into 3D animation, the style looks so distinct yet feels very flowing and alive!
The story was, well… decent actually. Sure the themes are fairly cliché, it’s predictable at some points and it’s paced very quickly to which I could barely follow yet still giving you one or two moments to slow down for a breather. There were still twists that I genuinely didn’t see coming, films that do that (for a family film even) earn my respect. My only real gripes are that I wish the story was a bit more fresh and going all out with the ideas that were fresh (e.g. what the main character feared most).
The choice to hire Mexican descended actors was a wise choice at giving cultivated edges to the characters (e.g. Cheech Marin, Diego Luna, even Toro and Gutierrez). In fact my only real distractions were Saldana as Maria and Tatum as Joaquin, other than that the cast were spot on!
Dislikes: I’ll be brief on this one.
Personally I thought the soundtrack was a little inconsistent. Sometimes they would use pop cultural songs and English-sounding music in between scenes and it was just really distracting. But there were one or two songs I genuinely liked e.g. Can’t Help but Falling in Love with You, I Will Wait. I didn’t get into it that much, but that’s just me.
Aside from Maria, Mary Beth, the two Gods and the Pig: the characters were a little too stereotypical and bland. The father figure, the romantic poet, the show off, I find these characters to be really cliché. To be fair though the story didn’t give them much time to develop much character e.g. reasons for the boys to love Maria other than her looks. It just bothers me, but it is a family film so perhaps I’m being a bit harsh.
Now my biggest gripe, the comedy. Simply put: it just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fan of fast-paced comedy but the humour fell flat for me and tried a bit too hard to tell a lot of jokes.
Despite that though: I think it’s a decent film! It’s just unfortunate that the issues I had with it were big ones in my book. Bring your family along and enjoy the ride: chances are you’ll perhaps like it more than me! 🙂