If you like animated movies that convey a moral message, combined with a lot of pop culture references and current musical numbers, then this is the movie for you. Whimsical and funny animated characters take you back to a magical time of wonder, remembrance and of course, the traditional battle of good versus evil. The characters are voiced by an ensemble cast – Ron Perlman, Channing Tatum, Danny Trejo, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Christina Applegate and Ice Cube.
It all begins with a school trip to the museum – a bunch of “detention” students are dropped off and the doorman looks a little anxious. Not to worry, a new museum tour operator whisks the students away with her charm and her mysterious storytelling. Looks can be deceiving and the students soon find this out, as they pass through a side entrance of the museum.
The students are all over the place, loud, wild and uncontrollable – until the museum tour operator begins her tale. They go back to a time where Mexico was the center of the universe and there were many traditions and festivals that the people upheld. In the town of San Angel, the most celebrated festival was one when families had a day of remembrance for their departed loves ones. We find that there are three domains of life: the Land of the Living, the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten.
The three main protagonists are Maria, Joaquin and Manolo. Maria is a free spirit and best friends with Joaquin and Manolo. Joaquin is a very strong and brash youth and Manolo comes from a family of bullfighters. He doesn’t really want to be a bullfighter, preferring to play his guitar and sing songs. What Maria, Joaquin and Manolo are unaware of is that their fates are being wagered upon by the two spirits who rule the living and the dead – La Muerte and Xibalba. La Muerte bets that Manolo will end up marrying Maria, while Xibalba bets that Joaquin will be the one to marry Maria. During the wager and unknown to La Muerte, Xibalba secretly slips a magical medal to Joaquin. The person who bears this medal is granted the ability to fight without being wounded. Of course, this wouldn’t be a wager without any underhanded scheming, right?
Years pass and the three children grow into adults. Maria is pressured to marry Joaquin. Joaquin is regarded as a fierce warrior and a protector. These are qualities important to Maria’s father, who wants his daughter to marry such a man. After all, the town has been under the curse of Chakal, a ruthless bandit and his gang. Maria has feelings for Manolo. Manolo is under pressure from his father to do the family proud – as a descendant of a long line of bullfighters, Manolo must show his worth by killing the bull at the end of a bullfight. Manolo is uncertain and doesn’t feel killing a bull is the right thing to do.
Xibalba, not content to sit on the sidelines and let the wager run its’ course smoothly, decides to interfere. Once Maria and Manolo have the opportunity to confess their feelings to each other, a snake bites Maria….and she appears to die. Manolo himself is bitten twice and dies. He journeys to the Land of the Remembered and has a quest to fulfill. It appears with some encouragement and some help from otherworldly figures, Manolo finds the strength to pass a series of tests and come back to the Land of the Living.
Who ever said that the path to true love ever ran smooth? Our hero, Manolo, is once again among his living friends and a battle ensures. Chakal has come back to San Angel looking for the Medal of Everlasting Life. And we all know who the bearer of set item is. A final showdown takes place, people search their hearts to find the courage to do the right thing and it is then that the viewer understands what it truly means to be a hero.
With unique animation, musical interludes and a moral of the story included, I highly recommend The Book of Life. Colorful, vibrant and full of energy, this movie doesn’t disappoint. It has a little bit of everything in it for you to enjoy – action, comedic relief, history, folklore and romance!
The Book of Life premieres SATURDAY, JULY 4, 2015 at 8:00pm only on HBO.