Well, at least the film looked terrific…

by Martin Hafer

When The Book of Life began, I was really enthralled by its creative art style. After all, there are so many CGI films out these days that it’s great to see one that looks so different and bold. There’s also a few scenes that simply blew me away with the grand look–such as when the film went to the Kingdom of the Dead. In this sense, The Book of Life is clearly a gorgeous film.

I also really appreciated the character designs. Imagine if you took traditional Mexican articulated wooden sculptures for Day of the Dead and you make many of the characters look like living versions of these statues–that is what most of the characters looked like in this movie. I loved this and felt that the animators and artists were by far the biggest stars of the film and I could see this film being nominated for technical awards because of this.

The Book of Life
Directed by
Jorge R. Gutierrez
Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum
Release Date
17 October 2014
Martin’s Grade: C-

Unfortunately, apart from the artistry, there wasn’t a lot I loved about the film. The story had great parts–but too often the characters were poorly developed, cliched and one-dimensional.

Also the soundtrack was simply bizarre. There were just too many singing interludes and the range of genres were so broad that it just left me baffled. Imagine…the film uses some traditional Latin tunes but also had some songs written by Paul Williams (The Apology Song was actually quite good I must say), Do You Think I’m Sexy (by Rod Stewart) and a very adult tune originally by Radiohead (the song Creep,-which includes a line about someone being so ‘f—ing special,’ although fortunately the song ended just before this line)!

Who chose these tunes?! Overall, the film looked great but otherwise left me very, very flat. Not terrible but with such artistry it’s hard to imagine the rest of it being so sub-par. It’s sad, as I really did want to see a Mexican storyline and it was nice to see so many Latin-American voice actors (though Channing Tatum and Ice Cube seemed like odd additions to the rest of the cast). Flawed but interesting.