My 2014 Movies: The Book of Life (#19)

Our first family film of the countdown and the last film I saw for this countdown. This is one of four films that I actually saw in 2015 that I let slide into the list. I meant to see the film with my niece when it was released, but we just never got around to it. Thankfully I had the pleasure of viewing this early this month.

This is a good point in the countdown, because from here on out every film on the countdown is very good. I can finally highlight some of the better films of the year instead of harping on the bad. The Book of Life is one of those good movies.

The Book of Life takes place in Mexico and based during Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration. There are two places to go after someone dies. The Land of the Remembered is a happy, festive place, while The Land of the Forgotten is a drab, wasteland. As long as you remember you’re departed loved ones, they will remain in the Land of the Remembered, but once forgotten they seize to exist.

On the Day of the Dead years ago, the two rulers of the two afterlives meet to chat (and to flirt). Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, makes a deal with La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered. Upon seeing two young friends, Manolo and Joaquin, try to impress a girl, Maria, they must each pick one to represent them. Whichever boy ends up marrying the girl will determine who will rule the Land of the Remembered.

Many years later, Manolo (La Muerte’s pick) is an avid guitar player who comes from a family of famous bull fighters. Joaquin (Xibalba’s pick) becomes the town hero thanks to the Medal of Eternal Life which Xibalba gave to him when he was young. Since then, Maria was sent to attend a boarding school in Spain, but is now returning after many years. Now the two friends continue to compete for Maria’s hand in marriage. Doing so results in conflict, betrayal, and even death.

That’s the extent of which I want to explain the plot. The story of The Book of Life gets really good and really interesting as time goes on.

I really loved the story of The Book of Life. There is a ton of heart and charm for what can be seen as a dark plot. I see children and parents alike getting into a unconventional love story. It contains the common child-friendly themes of love, friendship, loyalty, nobility, and family. On top of that, you will find some more mature themes such as death.

You may consider death to be too heavy of a theme to bear in a children’s movie, but that’s what makes this movie stand out. Very few films try to tackle the concept of death, mourning, and the afterlife, but this film does it very cleverly. Due to the nature of the subject matter, these seemingly darker themes aren’t viewed in a sad or tragic sense. Death is viewed in a more positive light, remembrance and mourning is seen as necessary, and the afterlife is seen as fun and lively. This is a great workaround for turning a dark theme into a lighter one.

On that note, the film’s story and writing is further helped by its great array of characters. Characters are incredibly important in a children’s movie and attribute to its success. Every character in the film is enjoyable, memorable, and funny. This is helped by the movie’s excellent performances. This is an all-star cast of incredibly talented people. I’ll especially give credit to the three main leads: Diego Lunas, Zoe Saldana, and Channing Tatum. They all bring excellent comedic delivery and chemistry to the film.

Then there’s the film’s breath-taking art-style. The film’s animation is a lot of things, but bad is certainly one of them. Its culture-based art-style is this film’s defining detail, and adds to the film’s overall charm. To some this may be initially polarizing, but when watching the movie, it pulls you in within the first minute. I couldn’t possibly say enough good things about the art-style.

It also doesn’t hurt to mention the soundtrack of the film is also very good. It’s mix of popular love songs covered by the film’s main star and lively Latin musical scores are just one other more thing that draws you into the movie’s world and atmosphere.

I’ll admit that I underestimated this movie upon first glance. I didn’t really know what to expect between its different look and its foreign background. This was the absolute correct movie to end my 2014 viewing season on. I recommend it to anyone, especially to families. While kids are drawn in by the movies charm and story, adults and teesn will appreciate the more mature themes and cultural influence. To anyone, it’s most certainly worth a shot.

View #18 here!

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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