The Book of Life Reviewed by Thomas Neil

The Book of Life is adorable from start to finish. But seriously what the hell is up with the drawing style for this movie? Pretty much everyone has a horrible looking gherkin type thing for a nose.

If I had to summarise this movie, and the man with a gun to my head says I do, I’d say it’s a story about conflicts between gods, wagers involving man as their plaything and a whole lot of Mexico. There is nothing inaccurate about that description although it suggests nothing of the heart that this movie has.

You really do root for the characters whether it’s the rebellious Maria, brash but brave Joaquin or the sensitive Manolo. Each of them win you over in some way during the story. Maria in particular is impressive; she’s a strong and attractive female character not defined by a man and more than capable in her own right. Which Is something not a lot of movies manage.

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If I had to pick a tag line for this movie and oh look there’s the man with the gun again, I’d probably pick: “No retreat, no surrender” truly words to live by, wouldn’t you agree?

The movie sets up fairly early the love between these three children and the destiny which lies before them and the Journey is seeing whether they follow the future written for them or whether they make their own stories.

The entire soundtrack is phenomenal and I have all the songs on my phone to listen to when I need a quick pick me up. Music is important to the story as well because it’s Manolos passion and he is the real heart of the film. I really do love musical transitions for characters aging, reminds me of The Lion King.

Also I have a soft spot for comic animal sidekicks, talking or otherwise. Chewey the pig joins the likes of Iago from Aladdin and the gecko from tangled and he does a great job as well. Just on the right side of annoying.

This film really portrays the weight of expectations and duty. As Joaquin says “those are some big shadows we live under eh buddy?” Also when talking about Joaquin I keep forgetting that Channing Tatum is in this it’s just so weird. He was good though.

I’m a sucker for a good hero, someone pure of heart who does the right thing, not out of duty or because it’s what’s expected but because he feels it in his core. I really identified with Manolo as I expect you were supposed to but there’s a lot to be said of Joaquin. He might be cocky and with an over inflated sense of ego but he was given power from a god and he used it to protect people, sure he did it for glory but there’s no selfless good deed because they make us feel good and he spent the better part of his youth protecting the innocent.

Best line in the movie by far: “I’m allergic to dying…especially in the face”.

Joaquin might be badass because of his medal but I will admit Manolos bullfighting is impressive. It’s easy to see why his family have been revered as bullfighters for centuries.

Despite the Mexican locale and the obviously wrong time period I liked hearing Manolos rendition of creep by Radiohead. Speaking of which maybe I’ve been ruined by musicals but I also believe a good song can really solve anything. And I love the songs coming out of this. The really reach you, the familiar get you singing along and the original tracks are engaging on a whole other level.

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There’s a scene that bugs me each time I watch this movie where Manolo lights hundreds of candles for a bit of romance; first off where did he get them? Secondly how did he find any time to light a few hundred of them? And finally why the hell didn’t the bridge he lined them across catch fire? He could have literally “burned his bridges” (wink wink) as well as the entire town if he was unlucky.

Another bad idea for lighting candles outside is zero protection from the elements, something he realises when the heavens open up and rain pours to the earth. In fairness I doubt he was too worried about it at the time because (spoilers ahead) he held Maria in his arms screaming at her apparent death. Also side point I love that moment, it’s the perfect cinematic masterpiece because with her gone Manolos own light has been extinguished.

I loved the meeting between Manolo and his dearly departed family. They are an eclectic and funny bunch in their own right and each parrots the words of their family about honour and bullfighting but in the end they still embrace their own self.

Something that occurred to me considering the whole Mexican mythos; why is the candle maker so white and beardy? He is funny though he reminds me of The Genie from Aladdin, minus Robin Williams’ charm of course.

The land of the forgotten is terrifying, I’d hate to ever be forgotten but to know if you are you suffer and then just disappear is even worse. I loved the final bullfight in the land of the forgotten firstly because it reaks of a boss battle but secondly because he makes up for all the harm his family has caused by bullfighting and earned forgiveness. Also the song he sings is so touching. Instead of fighting he sings from his heart.

The Book of Life at its core is about bravery, not to fight but to live as you want no matter what and to be kind in a judgemental world. It’s a lovely little film that I suggest everyone watch at some point.

TN

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