Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Book of Life Review

From Reel FX Animation Studios, the animation studio that brought us Free Birds, comes The Book of Life, which is another animated movie about a holiday, this time being the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, aka Day of the Dead. Now I didn't actually write a review on Free Birds. The reasoning for that is because I actually skipped it in theaters and thus didn't see it until it came out on DVD. Given how horrid the reviews were for the movie, I was actually pleasantly surprised. It wasn't the best, but it was a fun little animated movie about Thanksgiving. I do find it interesting that both of Reel FX's feature length animated movies are about holidays that don't have a whole lot of movies about them. It's like they're playing a game of no holiday left behind, which is kinda cool. The Book of Life is a movie that I wasn't completed sold on going into it, but it looked like a could surprise. Turns out it's about what I expected. Despite fantastic animation, the movie as a whole leaves a little be desired for.

Like I mentioned, The Book of Life is a movie that takes place on Day of the Dead and attempts to honor the Mexican holiday and Mexican tradition. However, nothing says honoring Mexico like Channing Tatum and Mumford and Sons, right? I think it would've actually been really cool if this movie went all in with the Mexican theme, but it was obvious that they were trying to appease both crowds. They did have plenty of Mexican voice actors and music, but there was also just as much American voice actors and music, which just felt a bit weird. It was also obvious that they were trying to appease their non-Mexican audiences by spending a ton of time describing what Day of the Dead actually is. And yes, they used Day of the Dead the whole movie. I don't even remember Día de los Muertos actually being said. I do want to add that our American actors and American music wasn't bad. People like Channing Tatum did a great job. They just felt miscast and slightly out of place. And I did like I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons. It's a great song and I was quietly singing along with it. I was just wondering why it was happening. Mexican music would've worked much better.

That said, them not going 100 percent Mexican in a Day of the Dead movie was only a minor annoyance. Had the rest of the movie been amazing, I could've brushed this aspect off. I mean, I was one of those people that didn't really have a problem with Johnny Depp playing a Native American in The Lone Ranger. The thing is, the story is kinda weak. I can't remember where I read it, but someone compared this movie to Romeo and Juliette with a Day of the Dead backdrop. And while I wouldn't necessarily use the Romeo and Juliette comparison, not every romance has to be compared to Romeo and Juliette, the idea that this is just a romance movie with the Day of the Dead themes being a side note is completely true. In the movie, you have a young Mexican girl and two young boys that both love her. She moves away to Spain and doesn't come back until they are all adults. Then when she does come, the movie is just these two men now fighting for her love. And it's completely predicable and completely cliché. There is a moment in the movie where our main character goes down to the land of the remembered and land of the forgotten. I was hoping they would spend more time on that aspect of the movie and give us a theme of remembering our family, friends and ancestors that have passed on, which is the purpose of the Day of the Dead. That would've been cool. But no, after touching on that a bit, we went straight back to the romance. Added on to that was the even more clichéd theme of writing our own story. Our main character loves singing, but his father insists that he be a bull fighter because everyone in their family was. Well, you know where that's going to go. And you're right. That theme has been done before, and done well, but in this instance it's really boring.

Despite all these negative comments, there are two aspects of the movie that are done very well. The first of this is the animation style. Yes, this is done by the same studio that did Free Birds, but you wouldn't notice that if they didn't say so. Free Birds isn't bad animation, but it's nothing worth writing home over. The style in this movie doesn't even look similar. It's very unique and very spectacular. Thus it makes the movie as a whole visually brilliant. It reminded me of The LEGO Movie from earlier this year. The LEGO Movie wasn't stop motion for the most part, but it was done so well that you almost wondered if they had actually used LEGO figurines. Same case with The Book of Life. The characters are like toy figurines and there's parts of the movie where you wonder if they actually used toy figurines. Sometimes I feel the Oscars look at the animation style when determining the best animated feature award and if that's what they decide to do this year, The Book of Life definitely deserves a nomination. The other thing that I think this movie did very well was the score. Now the movie was almost a musical. There was a lot of singing and several original songs written for the movie. That's not what I'm talking about here. Those songs were good, but not memorable. But the score was fantastic.

So overall, this isn't a bad movie. Yes, I've complained more than I've praised in this review, but that's because I saw the potential in the movie and had it been polished up, this could've been one of the best animated movies I've seen in a while. As I was watching it, I was amazed by the animation and the overall visuals of the movie. I really loved listening to the score and the original songs they sang were enjoyable, even if they weren't memorable. But I was just watching this story unfold and was disappointed that it was just a big, predictable love triangle story with the cliché theme of you can write your own story added in. I wanted this movie to be a movie about the Day of the Dead. Themes about death and remember those who have died would've made an excellent story. But sadly that was only an afterthought. That said, if you are looking for an animated, family-friendly movie to go see yourself or take your kids to, this isn't a bad option. Sure, I would recommend The Boxtrolls over this if you haven't seen that one, yet. Also, it might not be a terrible idea to wait a few more weeks for Big Hero 6. But if you've already seen The Boxtrolls and you don't want to wait a few weeks for another option, then check this one. You might enjoy it. Because it's not bad. It's just not fantastic. My overall grade for The Book of Life would be a 7/10.

1 comment:

  1. Love this movie!
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