Anika Goes to the Movies: The Book of Life

So last week I asked everyone what I should see and no one had an opinion so I went to see The Book of Life with my sister. It was fun-ish. I had buyers remorse. I was hoping for the Hispanic equivalent (in terms of greatness and setting the bar) of The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was not so.

Quick Rating: 3.25/5 It was cute. But wait until it comes to Redbox, and then you might even want to have a “free night” code.

*In sign-song neener-neener voice* Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.

*And again* Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers!!

*waves flashing sign* DETOUR! Spoilers ahead.

After the previous posts I am deciding to trust you now. . . let’s hope that’s a good choice.

The animation- was good-ish. Really cool in the “land of the remembered” Relatively lame everywhere else, especially in the town. Not much that felt original or authentic.

The characters- The guys were fairly two dimensional. The girls were absurd, but I think I will save a deeper discussion of that for a later post I am working on about female characters in storytelling. Just know that I have no interest in my girls becoming like any of the characters presented in this film. Everyone who was not a main character, with two exceptions, just sort of blends into the background. The priest, turned luchador(sp? my computer seems to hate all the spellings of this word since it’s Spanish) is amusing. Not original, but amusing. And the pink pig is pretty cute. Other than that and the nun choir that sings everything, it’s pretty much, meh. And it’s almost like the writers wanted it that way. They had dozens of characters or groups of characters that are obviously meant to be caricatures. It’s a style choice, I guess, but it was so not working for me. Also we learn that even when you don’t have to put up with his stupid facial expressions, Channing Tatum is not a good actor. And his accent did this stupendous disappearing act from time to time. Poof! Gone! And then back again! I was not amazed.

The story- Is not terrible. In fact, the merits of the story are pretty much what save the movie. The action is fast paced, but not so much so that you get to the middle or end and think, “Wait, how did we get here?” There are plenty of places where things slow down just enough for us to appreciate the few things that are done well in characterization. You get the epic quest feel without it being too campy, some fun surprises along the way, and a rather satisfying(though fairly hokey) last stand. I won’t give away too much, as that is the one thing you can look forward to, an interesting story. My one beef is that the female protagonist, Maria, is pressured into marrying Channing Tatum so that he will stay and protect the town. Why wouldn’t he stay anyway? It’s HIS home town, too. Is it because the town couldn’t pay him enough? Did other towns need him more? Why does she have to marry him to keep him there? No good explanation for this at all. Boo.

The music- One thumb up, One thumb down. Most of the songs throughout the film are covers. Some are great, like the latinized version of Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait for You.” Others were sad grasps after a specific feeling that just came off cliche and painful. “Fools Rush In” should not be rerecorded. It’s done. Let it go. And in my opinion, even as a ridiculous joke, the lyrics, “If you think I’m sexy, and you want my body, come on baby, let me know,” don’t belong in a PG film. Yuck. Oddly, the few original pieces done for the movie were lovely or fun and upbeat. So. . .*shrug*

The cultural over tones: I’m pretty baffled as to how a hispanic writer/director could willingly pour so much obvious stereotype into a kids film. If it was meant to be ironic or sarcastic in someway, kids aren’t going to get that. Examples: The mariachi band of the town is three fat guys of sequential height with clothes that don’t fit who never prove to be decent musicians, the “men” of the town are four nearly identical super thin guys with mustaches who cower every time anything vaguely frightening happens; the young women of the town are also nearly identical, what most of us would call fairly pretty, hide behind their fans, and look down on the female protagonist because, “she reads books for fun;” the bandits also all look the same except for the big scary boss that must be defeated in the end. He gave the country of Mexico a mustache. Like you zoom in over the country, map style, and it has this massive mustache. So all valid hispanic men have mustaches or something? Again, if it is supposed to be a joke, I don’t get it. Going back to the animation, it is almost like the director/screen writer, Jorge R. Gutierrez, thought that it would be really cool to animate a movie in the style of the Dia De Los Muertos aesthetic, and needed a story to go with it. He found himself having to make stuff up for the living in order to animate the dead and fell back on his training from MAD TV where he animated for two years. *shrug*

Overall: It was cute. It was interesting. It was a little dumb and not something I want to own. *shrug* Which seems to be my reaction to just about all of it.

Well, enjoy whatever you are watching until the next time Anika Goes to the Movies. And by the way, I am always willing to entertain suggestions. That’s what the comment section is for.

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