By Sergio Berrueta
Twentieth Century Fox opens up “The Book of Life” to give audiences a fascinating new adventure in animation.
“The Book of Life” follows the story of Manolo, a guitar-playing matador voiced by Diego Luna, and Joaquin, a brave noble soldier voiced by Channing Tatum.
Both are vying for the heart of the general of San Angel’s daughter Maria, voiced by Zoè Saldana.
Unfortunately, Maria is taken away by the evil ruler of the Land of the Forgotten named Xibalba, voiced by Ron Pearlman.
It’s up to Manolo to give up his life to find her in the Land of the Remembered and find La Muerte, voiced by Kate Del Castillo, to bring them back to San Angel above.
The film presents its story in a unique visual style not seen in the realm of computer generated animation.
The style is rendered in the form of marionettes modelled after the designs of Dia de Los Muertos festivals across Mexico.
It’s filled with vibrancy and an array of bright colors that capture the energetic spirit of the holiday.
The animation captures the story amazingly well, while oozing life throughout the film.
It’s fast-paced and wild with Looney Tunes style humor and makes great use of 3D upon arrival in the Land of the Remembered.
This makes the film stand out against the current wave of CGI animated fare that seems drab, safe and all too familiar.
The animation studio behind the feature, Reel FX, come into their own as this is their sophomore effort in full-length animated features after last year’s “Free Birds.”
The plot of the film is saved by the animation.
At the first and second acts, the film has its twist and turns that catch the audience off guard, yet around the third act of the film, it deters into predictable moments seen in other films.
The voice acting helps carry the film along.
Diego Luna delivers a heartwarming performance as the young matador, while Tatum gives Joaquin a wonderfully arrogant personality on par with Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast.”
A majority of the cast is of Latino descent, which brings the film closer to its Latin roots, from short appearances by comedian Gabriel Iglesias and Eugenio Derbez to action star Danny Trejo.
The music of the film, done by Gustavo Santaolalla, brings out the essence of Mexico in the classic mariachi and corrido styles.
The film also has new songs done by classic ‘70s songwriter Paul Williams including the beautiful “I Love You Too Much.”
When Manolo expresses his love for Maria, he emulates the style of Ritchie Valens.
One of the songs that sticks out is a rearranged version of Mumford & Sons’ hit song “I Will Wait,” done as a corrido ballad that will take audience aback for being unrecognizable at first, until the chorus hits.
“The Book of Life” gives the audience a fresh and exciting experience in modern animation with a delightful visual style, dazzling music and a story that, while fresh, can get predictable at times.
“The Book of Life” is in theaters now and rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images.