The Book Of Life (2014)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

USA, 2014.  Reel FX Creative Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, Chatrone, Mexopolis, Twentieth Century Fox Animation.  Screenplay by Jorge R. Gutierrez, co-written by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Film Editing by .  

This movie is made by people trying to broaden a cultural experience to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and it has a severe lack of personality as a result.  Children on a field trip to a museum are given a real treat when their tour guide takes them to an off-limits section of the building where treasures of Mexican culture are hidden, presumably because Americans don’t think they’re worth putting on full display. The kids are presented with a book that they are told contains cultural stories both real and mythical, choosing one to narrate that transports us south of the border where a love triangle exists between a beautiful girl and her two male suitors, both of whom hope to someday marry her.  One of them is a brawny action man () who is seen as the only hope the village has against an evil bandit, and the other is a sensitive musician () whose father wants him to take up the family tradition of bullfighting.  Two lords of the underworld (, ) make a bet as to whom the girl will marry, the stakes of which involve the fate of the two worlds of the afterlife and the details of which get tricky when Perlman decides to be dishonest in making sure his side wins.  Colourful and innocuous, this one might amuse the small fries but is a surprising bore for adults, with bland characters and a thoroughly charmless narrative that plods along until the overdue finale.  The villainy is upended by having bad people turn out to be merely tricksters in this silly game of love, while what should be a delightful exploration of Mexico’s cultural traditions, including the bright celebrations of the Day Of The Dead that have more than their fair share of dark undertones, are completely defanged by tame humour and a musical score that sounds like AM Top 40 with a few guitar strums to give it a distant Latin flavor.

Golden Globe Award Nomination:  Best Animated Feature

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