Movie: The Book of Life
My Rating: 4 stars
Well, this is the first Dia de los Muertos themed movie I’ve ever seen. This is a very cute, animated film, designed to explain the holiday to that new brand of cynical, self-aware, tween. So, the storytelling is a little more sophisticated than the old-school cartoons that I watched as a child. But, I think I like this new trend. And, the movie turned out to be a lot more charming than I was expecting.
This is a love story. It’s also a tale of an epic battle between good and evil, light and dark, order and chaos. The two gods of the underworld, Muerte and Xibalba, have a wager. They’re betting on the lives and loves of three young humans on earth. In a small village in Mexico, we have a classic love triangle. Two boys are competing to win the affections of the same girl. And, Muerte and Xibalba have wagered control of the entire underworld on these kids, with each god backing a different boy. It’s a beautiful story, blending romance, magic, and history into a rich tapestry. And impressively, the story is just light enough to appeal to people of all ages.
The context of this story is very specific, being based in traditional Mexican and Spanish folklore. And, the subject matter is about death and remembering one’s lost loved ones. That’s typically a topic that the Western world isn’t very comfortable with. And, I’m guessing that’s why this movie didn’t get more critical and commercial attention here in the US. But, that’s puzzling, because the movie is so cute. It’s definitely a story for kids, even though it’s a story about death. I actually think the story and the tradition it’s based on teach people to have a very healthy relationship with our mortal nature. And, I was completely charmed by this film. Maybe this movie was never in theaters. Perhaps it was designed specifically to go straight to DVD. And, with the film being as short as it is, eighty-five minutes, that theory makes some sense. But, I’m pretty excited about telling more people about this one.
Naturally, I recommend this movie. The tone is light. And, even though the subject matter is traditional, it’s a relatively modern take on old folklore. That’s something I’ve always loved. So go ahead and watch this one. And, I don’t think you should worry about showing it to your kids. It was written with young people in mind. And, I promise they won’t be creeped out.