Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Book of Life (2014)

I was quietly optimistic about seeing this one. Even though it is from the same animation company as 'Free Birds' and 'Open Season 2', the animation looked interesting and there was the potential to do something inventive and fun with it. What I got did have the animation, just not the fun nor the inventiveness.

The film starts in the present day with a bunch of irritating delinquent kids visiting a museum but eventually gets round to Mexican-set story where two guys, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Jaoquin (Channing Tatum), compete for the affection of Maria (Zoe Saldana). Only she is apparently not so easily won over as she is a 'strong' character (meaning, in these types of films, she eventually submits and becomes nothing more than a trophy/underling for our hero). However, there is a lot at stake in this romance as gods of the life/death, La Muerte and Xibalba ("To Xibalba?" automatically pops in my head), have made a bet concerning who will marry Maria. Things take a fatal turn for Manolo, who ends up dead and in the Land of the Remembered and must now work his way back to the living. There's also something to do with an oversized bandit.

First of all, let's address the more depressing aspect of the film. When someone dies here, they either go to the Land of the Remembered or the Land of the Forgotten (its like one of Dante's levels of Hell - I think the one where the gluttons end up). You only go to the forgotten one if no living person remembers you (so an easier way to avoid that fate is to follow in the footsteps of Hitler). However, that gives the impression that, eventually, everyone will end up in the land of the forgotten. Happy Endings all round!

Anyway, onto the proper film. As I mentioned, the animation was interesting. It was bright, colourful, and had its own style. Alas, it isn't enough to carry the film or cover up the atrocious story-telling and lazy characters. The film is a hectic rush, rarely allowing time to let setting or anything sink in. It comes off as more a 90 minute montage than a proper narrative and seems aimed at people with extreme cases of ADHD. As for the stuff set in the afterlife, it is barely there as that is covered in a few minutes. The only time the film slows down is to forced the clichés down our throat and attack us with some forgettable songs. I didn't find this to be a fun viewing experience.

The animation may be nice, but there is little reason to see the film beyond this. There is no substance to latch onto in this. Just a brightly coloured pile of rubbish.

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