The Book of Life is directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez who co-wrote the script with Douglas Langdale. Gutierrez has previous experience in TV and short films. Langdale has extensive writing credits in children’s TV going all the way back to the straight to video The Return of Jafar (1994). The big name looming in the background is the producer Guillermo Del Toro whose past work speaks for itself.
The story focuses on the threesome of Maria, Manolo and Joaquin voiced by Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna and Channing Tatum respectively. They live in the Mexican village of San Angel and we meet them as children with the two gentlemen competing for the attentions of the beautiful Maria. Little do they know that they have become the subject of a bet between the the rulers of The Land of The Remembered and The Land of The Forgotten.
I tried hard to find a picture that could convey the vibrant colour that pervades the entire film. The fun and exuberance leaps off the screen as the quirky group of wooden block characters learn about themselves and the meaning of life. This film is pretty much flat out from start to finish with the occasional pause for brevity. It is clearly intended to appeal to young children. The Book of Life leans on music and slap stick humour with the music being a mix of original tunes and recognisable pop hits.
The film deals with the potentially tricky subject of death by describing it as just another stage in life where we will all have the chance to meet up with our relatives again one day. The Book of Life sells the message that we must be true to ourselves and should never give up on our dreams. If we do this we will be rewarded in this life and the next.
Where this film doesn’t quite succeed as well as the likes of Despicable Me (2010) or the collective works of Pixar is that it isn’t as orientated to adults. You don’t get the same jokes that would go over the heads of the little ones while having the grown ups laughing in the aisles. Overall the film bounces along and you’ll never be bored even though it doesn’t succeed on all levels. I expect it will hang around in the charts for a good few weeks to come.