Family movie offerings have been fairly sparse this year, and The Book Of Life seemed like another mediocre serving that I probably would have skipped right over. But a free screening came up, so I thought I'd give it a go. The Book Of Life tells the story of Manolo (Diego Luna), a bull fighter and wannabe musician in Mexico, after the heart of the lovely Maria (Zoe Saldana). Unfortunately, he has a rival in the form of decorated soldier Joaquín (Channing Tatum), and it turns out that two of the gods that rule the underworld have made a wager on who will succeed. One of the gods plays dirty, which sends Manolo on a quest through the realms of the afterlife to return to save his one true love when their hometown is in danger.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, although a lot was revealed in the trailer. But that's only because the pacing of this movie is quite odd. A large chunk of the beginning is used setting up the love triangle, and this is often quite slow and not very interesting. By the looks of the trailer, the main part of the movie should have been dealing with the Land Of The Dead, and that is indeed the best part, but the time spent there is brief and rushed. It's much like the dialogue and jokes spread throughout. Everything just seems rushed, especially the delivery, with one liners recited one after the other, all while other things are happening. Perhaps it's just me, but the whole movie feels very jerky, almost like it's been dubbed, even though it hasn't.
Still, The Book Of Life does look good. The Land Of The Dead sequences are particularly beautiful, resplendent with colour and awesome details. But even in the realm of the living, the aesthetics are nice, with the characters presented as wooden puppets portraying the story, and everything looks good in 3D too. As for the story, it's so so. There's certainly enough to keep the movie going, but it's a bit thin on the ground, and it's padded out with awkward pop culture references and enough mariachi covers of pop songs to put those Doritos guys out of business. The setting is good, the visuals are great, but everything else is just... okay. The Book Of Life is certainly watchable, but it's definitely not one of the greats.
My rating: 3/5