Reviews: The Book Of Life
Not The Great Movie I Expected...At All
This film...bothers me. The main vibe I get from it is "tries way too hard on everything, while nailing absolutely nothing." The whole film invokes the Eight Deadly Words for me. None of the characters connected to me (in some cases, I felt the opposite of what I was supposed to- Joaquin didn't seem that bad, and La Muerte is sort of irresponsible), and the plot isn't original or creative—unlike Moana, this is a serious drawback. There are also major flaws with the plot. The cosmic stakes of the movie are based on a petty wager on who of two fighting guys well get the girl. The movie mentions how stupid this is, but that doesn't help.The whole "family honor" theme bugs me with the abusive tones it takes, and the feminist themes with Maria are poorly done because she's inconsistent and the message is very heavy-handed. The framing device of the movie is entirely unnecessary and often annoying, and it builds up to an obvious and uninspiring twist. The animation? Well, in the "real-world" scenes, it's incredibly plastic and screams CG, but the story world is okay, I guess. The whole "supernatural world is better than the real world" thing is tiresome by this point, and the character designs are often grotesque and overstylized so it can claim to have an art style. I only came close to laughing at one joke, and even though I knew where I was supposed to be amused, I never was. And yeah, there's a token black character for comedy...eugh. Overall, I felt like the film was trying to tell me how to feel rather than just letting me feel, and I don't respond to manipulative coercion. I did sort of like the twist that led to the adventure segment, but that was just pulled out when it needed to be and the adventure itself really isn't one. You can skip it, but I'd recommend at least trying it. Maybe it just wasn't for me. I'm looking forward to Coco, because even if it's Pixar's worst film, I imagine it'll do better what this film tried.
Wasted opportunities on this movie
The visuals are gorgeous to look at, the character designs are creative and I love the whole fairytale feel of it, but the rest of it made me wonder why I wasted my money on seeing this. The story is obnoxiously paced and gives you too much information at once, most of the characters are annoying, and it simply isn't funny or engaging. Was I supposed to laugh at Maria declaring that she learned kung fu? Are the Adelita Twins supposed to be so charming when they're talking like Valley Girls? The best character in this movie is La Muerte, but she (in her true form, at least) is underused for most of the movie. Go ahead and like it if you want, but I certainly didn't enjoy it. It was one of the most soul draining cinematic experiences in recent memory.
A Gorgeous film on its way to becoming a classic
This film is fantastic! One of my personal favourites, top 5 easy! The animation is spectacular with its unique designs, the characters are very lovable and well voiced, the story is compelling and easy to follow, and the film just looks gorgeous! I love how death is a major part of a family film, even when they try to never use the actual word. Manolo is a very good main character and you can really sympathize with his situation. He's very determined and will not give up on his goals. The songs, while modern and a little distracting, are fine, plus Deigo Luna's singing is incredible. My only problem with the movie is the modern day framing device. I think the movie could have been better without it. If you cut out those particular scenes, the story doesn't really change at all. They could have just had narration and nothing else. But, I digress. Overall, it's a wonderful, beautiful film and definitely on its way to becoming a classic! I hope they make sequels!
Great but not perfect
I loved this film, for the most part. The animation and character designs were gorgeous, the setting was vibrant and unique, and most of the characters were very well-written and charming. The songs are nice enough, if a bit distracting (I burst out laughing in the theatre when Manolo burst out singing Creep). There was some childish potty humour, but not enough to make the film crass or unappealing to people who don't care for that type of joke. The definite highlights are the lands of the dead and the extended Sanchez family; both are big and bright and lively, and I look forward to seeing more of both in the sequels I hope are coming. The worst parts of the movie, for me, were the framing device and how Maria's character was handled. I found the framing device to be boring and it pulled me right out of the movie whenever it came up. A lot of the "let's go see how the kids react" scenes seemed pointless and unneccesary to me; they were mostly there to tell the audience how to react to what they just saw, which, you know, we shouldn't be told how to do if the film is done right, and this one was. I don't need to be jerked out of an emotional moment to look at a Detention Kid going "Noooo! This is sad!" It actually detracted from the emotional investment of those scenes. I would have found it a lot easier to bear if it was just the first scene framing it, and it wasn't referenced again and again throughout the film. My problem with Maria is that she wasn't very well developed or used as a character. She is just introduced as the Living MacGuffin that both boys want, and never really grows past that. Both the boys get character arcs and develop throughout the film; not Maria. She is introduced as perfect, she stays perfect, all the other girls in town hate her for being perfect. Despite her feminist candy coating, she never becomes anything other than an object the men fight for. She learns kung fu and swordfighting but has very little impact on the final fight with Chakal. I found her to be very much a Strong Female Character, in the Kate Beaton definition of the term, rather than as an actually strong character. TL;DR, an almost superb film, very well done with a lot of potential, that fell short for me on one or two unfortunately significant fronts.
A Flawed Masterpiece
I finally saw the mov For those of you playing the "cultural appropriation" card, remember the director and producer are both Latino and they selected or at least approved the casting decisions. But that's not the big problem. It is visually appealing and definitely imaginative, but id doesn't really get started until the second half. The first half is boring and cliche, and I was totally hating the love triangle aspect of it When we finally got to the Land of the Spirits, I was like "This is what I was waiting for". Such a shame only half the movie delivered as advertised. The Death Gods were cool, though. So yeah, it's okay. It's probably a 7/10. It is creative and fun, but it's certainly not The LEGO Movie.
A feel good film and a future family favourite
I'll say it right now - this film is a great deal of fun, a light hearted romp through this life and the next, showing that death isn't always a bad thing, not as long as you remember those who have passed on. Which, frankly, is refreshing, in the era of grim realism. Also, the Land of the Remembered is my kind of afterlife. It plays some tropes straight, but remember, Tropes Are Not Bad. They're tropes for a reason. At the same time, it pleasantly subverts others. The main hero is an excellent portrayal of Badass Pacifist - he can fight, and will if he has to, but doesn't like it. The themes could, in the hands of another Director, become anvilicious and grim - in the hands of Gutierrez, however, the film wears its themes lightly (but not flippantly). And, on top of all that, it has an unambiguously happy ending. Love conquers all indeed.
Good but some things hold it back
The Movie as a whole is pretty good. Most of the characters are 3 dimensional and the setting is unique and done quite well. The animation is done well and the unique style for the main story has a neat Framing Device justification. Let me be clear the animation is very detailed and very good. The center plot of the love triangle is believable and the moral problems the characters have is a plus. Unfortunately while on a whole it is very good there is some problems. Most of which crop up in the latter half of the story. 1) Pacing: when we get to the trials of the cave of souls everything seems to move too quickly. which while its normal for a story to speed up as we get to the end it just comes off as unnatural. 2) Ice Cube: I have nothing wrong with the guy, but his portrayal of the candle maker makes the whole epicness of the concept into a joke. It's not the casual all powerful being hasn't been done before (Aladdin come to mind) I just don't think it fit this particular role or it just wasn't handled correctly. 3) It feels like some things were cut: Some things are just not elaborated on the significance of the medal, Joaquin's father, Xibalba's bitterness of the land of the forgotten it just seemed like it could use 15 more minutes. 4) In a little bit of contrast to the above it felt like it moved a little to slow in the beginning. And another observation is that I have never gotten headaches from 3d movies before, but this one gave me one. It usually came up when a lot of detail was shown about like when we are introduced to the land of the remembered.