In a Pixar-less year that has been disappointing in terms of animated fare (How To Train Your Dragon 2 being the exception), The Book Of Life is a magical breath of fresh air that I flat-out loved. Directed by Jorge Gutierrez and produced by fairytale weaver Guillermo del Toro, it’s a vibrant and joyous celebration of life and death.
It begins with a group of begrudging school children arriving at a museum for a tour, who are lead to a secret room that holds the book of life. Containing every story in the world, tour guide Mary Beth tells them one about the small Mexican town called San Angel. Two gods, one named La Muerte; ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and the other Xibalba; ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, put a wager on the friendship of three young children named Manola, Joaquín and María. Each god wagers on one of the young boys as the eventual winner of María’s heart.
If Xibalba should win, he would take domain over the vivid party land of the remembered, whilst La Muerte would be forced to take rule of the desolate wasteland that is the land of the forgotten. With more to gain than to lose, the mischievous Xibalba sabotages the agreement, killing potential love interest Manola and sending him on a journey through the afterlife.
The Book Of Life is a charming and delightful watch that will please both parent and child alike. Stylistically, it’s one of the best things I’ve seen all year and the animation is truly tremendous. A striking and rich fiesta of colours, it’s a feast for the eyes that dares to be different with plenty of contorted characters and creatures filling the screen throughout. It boasts a fantastic soundtrack that includes songs from Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe, the Magnetic Zero’s, Radiohead and even Elvis, that are given a Mexican makeover with great effect.
Covertly educational in dealing with cultural aspects like the day of the dead, a younger audience may find it more rewarding on an intelligent level. More than anything though, it’s extremely entertaining and the story takes disney themes such as friendship and love, and gives them a bright and original twist. A strong contender for the year’s best animated feature, The Book Of Life is big-hearted family fun that is pleasing to the eye, as well as the soul.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com