As you're probably aware, I'm a big proponent for quality animated cinema. So I try to check out every animated feature I can. This week's installment: the Jorge R. Gutierrez helmed The Book of Life.
This is a story of competition, love, and the struggles between life and death... it's about what it means to be remembered and how tragic it is to be forgotten. But mostly it's about two suitors vying for the hand of one woman... and the insane lengths a pair of gods will go to to decide the love triangles' fate.
It's a family film. So it's simple... easy to understand... and for some reason riddled with pop culture references in the form of your favorite songs (and some of your not so favorites) of the last twenty years... repurposed for Mexican style musical sequences. It's weird. But the confusing decision not to write original songs doesn't detract from a lot of positives that this movie does manage to accomplish.
The animation is whimsical and easy. The character and set designs fun and functional. And the voice performances, mostly serviceable. But the highpoint of this project is the curiosity it seems to place on the single idea that to be forgotten is a great and overwhelming tragedy. It's a strange thing for a family film to focus on, but it also carries some weight and poignance that I think would work surprisingly well on a younger mind. We live in a time when older generations are being ignored and disrespected... in many cases the disrespect is actually warranted as old ideals become less and less useful to a populace intent on connecting with everyone everywhere all the time without exclusion. I think there's a thought in this film that really tries to touch on something important... we cannot forget the past, even if we're recalling the mistakes of those that came before us, it is absolutely necessary that we at least know that history. No one should ever be forgotten.
Of course I'm drawing a lot of conclusions right now. The movie its self doesn't go that in depth on the topic, but I do think that if it gets children to think about their grandparents... their great-grandparents... where they come from, it'll be a successful film.
Anyway, The Book of Life is good enough to bring your kids to if you've got em. It's mostly a middle of the pack kind of flick, but it has its moments.