Saturday, October 24, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *The Book Of Life

Guillermo del Toro teamed up with former Nickelodeon animator Jorge Gutierrez to make the semi-annual Halloween-related animated movie, The Book Of Life, although this is about the day after, the Day of the Dead(no relation to the zombie flick). Animated by Reel FX Creative Studios, who also created Rise Of The Guardians), this 3D CGI production that bears a strong resemblance to a stop motion animated film, but manages to pay enough homage to the former claymation traditions.

Starting off in a museum in Mexico, a group of rowdy children on a field trip are told by a well-informed tour guide one of the stories from the Book of Life, which conveniently is located in the museum instead of maybe someplace like the Vatican next to the Holy Grail. The tour guide tells them of how on one Day of the Dead, the queen of remembered souls La Muerte(who totally rocks a sombrero)makes a deal with her former husband, Xibalba, the king of forgotten souls(who bears an uncanny resemblance to Discord from My Little Pony). They each wager the other's job that they can have two different boys grow up to be the one who wins the heart of Maria, the daughter of a small town in Mexico, which according to the movie is in the "center of the universe". Of the two suitors is La Muerte's choice Manolo, who carries on the family business of bullfighting, although he doesn't actually want to kill the bulls and wants to instead be a singer/guitarist. Xibalba's choice is Joaquín, son of the local hero who died protecting the town from a gigantic bandits, Chickaki, leader of a band of desperadoes. Xibalba gives Joaquín a magical medal which allows him to win in any fight. A few years go by and Maria comes back to town from boarding school, with both of the now grown men who are still friends rivaling for her. In an attempt to get her attention, Manolo has the bullfight of his life, but backs down from killing the bull in the end. Disappointing his father, Manolo tries to woo Maria with his music along with his mariachi band. The two of them meet outside of town, but Maria is supposedly killed from a snakebite. Xibalba makes a deal with Manolo in the style of Hades from Disney's Hercules, by allowing himself to be also bitten by the same snake to be with Maria in the afterlife. Manolo ends up in the Land of the Remembered(Mexican "Heaven")and reconnects with some of his deceased relatives including his mother, and goes to see La Muerte since he can't seem to find Maria there. Manolo and his family are instead surprised to see Xibalba is running the joint since La Muerte lost their bet, so the family then travels to the Cave of Souls to find their way to the Land of the Forgotten where she's moved to. After meeting the Candlemaker who is responsible for bringing life into the world one candle at a time, Manolo finally reaches La Muerte, and she calls out Xibalba on his meddling. Xibalba makes a deal with Manolo to win a bullfight with the ghosts of hundreds of dead bulls that merge into one enormous monster, but he puts the angry bull spirits to rest and wins his life back. Meanwhile, back in the world of the living, Maria was just knocked out from the snakebite, and promises to marry Joaquín if he will protect the town from Chikaki who has learned of the magical medal with plans to take it. The desperadoes attack the town, but Manolo shows up with the spirits of his family since its the Day of the Dead and the divine gods decide to be "lenient" about letting the dead walk the Earth, and the combined forces of the still living townsfolk defeat Chikaki and his gang. Maria ends up marrying Manolo, and Xibalba gets back together with La Muerte. The movie bookends with the reveal that the museum tour guide was really La Muerte, and Xibalba was really a creepy janitor.

This movie works as a look into Mexican folklore, albeit from a tilted point of view of the rest of the world. The animation is extremely high quality and is particularly effective in 3D, but also good if you can't afford the extra price. There's alot of voice talent behind this including Ron Pearlman, Zoe Saldana, Danny Trejo, and veteran Grey DeLisle. One of the more interesting aspects is the fact that the story takes place sometime far in the past, but the soundtrack features several modern day pop songs in it, and not in a misplaced way like Moulin Rouge. Fer sure worth giving a look at on November 1st.

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