Starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Kate del Castillo, Ron Perlman, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Extras: Closer Look at The Book of Life, The Music of Life, The Adventures of Chuey, Digital Carpenters: The Art Direction of The Book of Life, Music Machine, “No Matter Where You Are” Music Video, Audio Commentary by Jorge R. Gutierrez, Gallery
THE BOOK OF LIFE follows the life of Manolo (voiced by Diego Luna), a young man who’s stuck between the choices of fulfilling expectations set by his family to keep up with tradition, or following the hopes of his heart. It’s produced by visual deity Guillermo del Toro, with wonderful direction coming from Jorge R. Gutierrez, who co-wrote with Doug Langdale.
All set on the Mexican Day of the Dead, we begin within the youthful lives of Manolo (Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Zoe Saldana), who are all best of friends but the two boys, without realising, are already vying for the attention of the strong-willed Maria. When the three set free some animals that smash-up the town centre, Maria’s father sees her disruptive influence and sends her away to Europe to become a ‘proper’ lady. Years pass and when she returns, all have grown up but the boys love for Maria hasn’t died and so they start to compete for her affections but in their own special, talented ways.
There’s a slight twist here though because unbeknown to them all, their lives are actually being watched over by the two Lords of the Underworlds, who have a bet to see who’ll win Maria’s eventual hand in marriage. Here we meet the fantastical La Muerta (Kate del Castillo), the ruler of the vibrant, stunning Land of the Remembered and Xibalba (Ron Perlman), the shadowy character who rules the dark and desolate Land of the Forgotten.
Alongside honest storytelling that involves a lot of fun and crazy characters, THE BOOK OF LIFE really celebrates the fascinating cultural influence with stories that inspire. With most moral animations, you’re first struck by an intelligent narrative that carefully covers issues through each generation and here you get that alongside an awe-inspiring world that’s remarkable and wonderfully, positively intoxicating. Sure, there are zany moments a-plenty but the animation really pulls into the world and is breath-taking. I’d love to have seen this on the big screen and if you pick up a 3D Blu-ray, then I think it’d be one to remember. But no matter if not because your standard Blu-ray version stands out where the subtle layers of texture between the wood and metal of three differing worlds works magnificently.
Set up with a ‘U’ rating, this is effortlessly a family film and they even throw in alternative versions of Radiohead and Elvis songs that give a nod towards an older audience but it’s important to mention that the mixture of music and magic really hits home impressively. This one is all about family, love, adventure, possibility and it’s all encompassed by beautiful, fantastical, traditional Mexican and Latin American imagery that reflects the story with great, strong female characters that rightfully rule the roost.
THE BOOK OF LIFE is a distinctive animation that defies your regular story-telling and echoes the best of Disney at its most vibrant but, quite significantly, creates its own world in which to lose yourself. Go celebrate life!
[usr=4] THE BOOK OF LIFE is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.