For me The Book of Life is the 5th animated film that I have seen this year and you could be forgiven for thinking that Tim Burton was the director on this one! Alas it is actually the feature length directorial debut of Jorge R. Gutierrez. Along with a host of famous voices The Book of Life was born!
This animation stands out from the crowd in terms of 2014’s offerings. It is very distinctive and it has a lot going for it in terms of the actual animation. However there were aspects of this that I didn’t like, there were elements of the design which I just thought were really ugly, this although was only the case on some occasions as for the most part this is a really good looking movie. The setting of Mexico worked really well and the way this style was infiltrated into the design of characters and settings was consistent and contributed really well to the look and feel of the film. At first there seemed to be way too many characters and it was hard to keep up with who was related to who, and who had dead parents etc, this could present a few problems for children who are watching however this issue does eventually straighten itself out. The plot was good, it had enough darkness featured to give it substance whilst not too much to be overbearing for kids. The music featured was actually a real highlight too, especially a Mexican inspired version of Mumford & Sons, I Will Wait.
The voice performances were great here and the well known cast of Channing Tatum, Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Ron Perlman and Christina Applegate are a treat to listen to. Channing Tatum’s personality came across well in his voice and confirmed what a good casting decision this was for The Book of Life. Perlman was definitely channeling a bit of Jafar for his role as Xibalba to much effect. The maybe lesser known cast do their part too with their roles. My only issue with the cast and the characters here was the Candle Maker. Unfortunately I didn’t think that this character fitted into this film at all, he was just so different from the style and feel of the film that it took me out of the story a few times. To add to this was the casting for the character, as much as I like Ice Cube, here he just wasn’t right for the part. The sound of Ice Cube’s voice only further took me away from the story which was a shame, I doubt this will be an issue for children however I still think this character could have been handled better. Despite this I really enjoyed the cast and the characters, a bit more humour would have been welcome however the style of the film made up for that.
The Book of Life is something a bit refreshing for 2014 and it has its moments. The style of the movie is probably its best feature, I loved how the film looked. I would say that behind How To Train Your Dragon 2 and The Lego Movie, The Book of Life would most likely take up third place in terms of animation for 2014. Plenty of Mexican flare in here to bring a bit of excitement to what can often be quite a dull, repetitive and monotonous genre.
BIGGEST FLAW – Ice Cube’s casting as the out of place Candle Maker
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT – The style
Rating – 8/10