“What is it with Mexicans and death?”
20th Century Fox animation continues its ascension with its latest release, coming hot on the heels of Home which has already raked in over $100 million worldwide. Produced by Guillermo del Toro The Book of Life showcases the glorious beauty of Mexico. Or so the narrator and tour guide exquisitely voiced by Christina Applegate tell us. Taking place on the day of the dead, the film asks us who will marry Maria, Manola or Joaquin? That’s the bet between La Muerta (Kate del Castillo) and Xibabla (Ron Perlman), gods of the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten.
Manola (Diego Luna) has the gift of a great bullfighter, he will be the greatest Sanchez bullfighter ever, with one fundamental downside, he cannot kill the bull, “Killing the bull is wrong” he tells the crowds of adoring fans. Manola prefers to sing and play the guitar. His childhood friend Joaquin (Channing Tatum), is the alpha male, a noble son and decorated hero, and Maria (Zoe Saldana) who has returned home her own woman. She reads, fences and basically challenges the female stereotype.
The film is beautifully designed, a feast for the eye and ears, the original score and songs are by Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) and songwriter Paul Williams (The Muppet Movie). Song highlights idiosyncratic versions of Mumford and Sons' "I Will Wait," Radiohead's "Creep" and Rod Stewart's "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" The film is also very funny.