The Book of Life's story needs some work and is pretty underdeveloped but viewers won't mind as much because of it's stunning visualizations.
Set during the day of the dead, The Book of Life allows for Mexican culture to lay down and influence the narrative. Specifically, viewers learn of The Land of the Remembered – a festive and magical place where those have passed live on in memories and a metaphysical part of the netherworld. We also learn of its opposite, The Land of the Forgotten. Xibalba rules the land of the forgotten, but is tired of its bleak wasteland environment and wagers a bet with La Muerte, the ruler of the land of the remembered. By the ancient rules a wager is set between the controllers of the two realms – over a fate of love and marriage – and so the greatest bet in history began…Manolo versus Joaquin for the hand of Maria.
The Book of Life starts extremely strongly and is told at first as a story within a story with a bunch of unruly school children learning about the day of the dead and the book of life while on a school trip to a museum. As the story delves deeper into Mexican heritage and beliefs we also learn about Manolo, Joaquin and Maria. At this point the film switches gears and becomes your standard narrative of love as the children grow up to be adults and the men compete for the love of the woman.
The Book of Life is an admirable attempt to shed life on the relationship between Mexicans and death. The animation stylization is a vital addition to the successfulness of the film and is visually stunning. The macabre skulls and skeletons are whimsical with flourishing. The characters are distinct looking and it is clear that writer/director Jorge R. Gutierrez had a vision when embarking on this film.
Unfortunately the film is underdeveloped and there is no underlying sentiment and heart to push the film to greatness. The characters are fun and compelling but seem to have no deep relation to one another. The Book of Life is beautiful to watch but not strong enough to warrant an emotional engagement that will resonate once the film’s narrative is complete and the credits roll.
The Book of Life – Review