Book of Life proves an energetic, fun film


By Flynn Geraghty
Features Editor
Hispanics are not well portrayed when it comes to animation. That’s why I was excited when I heard Bookunnamed of Life was coming out. Finally, a movie that would portray this beautiful culture in a way that wasn’t offensive! Then, as the trailers came out, I became less excited and more apprehensive. It seemed like it wasn’t taking itself seriously and it was going to suffer because of pop culture references and Channing Tatum. But, I decided I couldn’t judge a movie by its poster and saw it anyway. 
The film starts off with a group of kids going into a museum, seeming less than enthusiastic. Their interest is sparked when their tour guide, played by Christina Applegate, starts telling them a story about a bet between two gods. La Muerte, played by Kate del Castillo, rules the Land of the Remembered (essentially heaven). Xibalba, played by Ron Perlman, rules the Land of the Forgotten (essentially, well, not heaven). 
The two wager on a group of three children, María, Manolo, and Joaquín. Manolo and Joaquín are both in love with María. La Muerte bets that Manolo will win her heart because of the kindness in his heart. Xibalba, on the other hand, bets that Joaquín will be the one to win her heart and gives him a magic medal that will keep him from harm. Whoever wins this bet will rule the Land of the Remembered. 
Skip ahead a few years and Joquín and Manolo have both become men. Manolo, played by Diego Luna, is continuing his family’s tradition of being a bullfighter, even though he would much rather focus on music. Joquín, played by Channing Tatum, has become the strong, respected town hero, thanks to his medal. María, played by Zoe Saldana, has also grown into a young, confident woman who feels she doesn’t need to be downgraded to just a housewife. 
That’s my main problem with the movie: it feels cliched. There are so many parts of the story and plot that have been done to death. The father disowns son for not following tradition cliché. The woman who doesn’t need a man, but she’s still going to chose one cliché. The hero who isn’t perfect, but has a heart of gold cliché. Not to say the characters and story aren’t likable, I just wish studios would do something a little different.
Also, it’s pretty obvious which one of the two men is going to end up with María. The movie tries to play it off as some sort of mystery that’ll really have you guessing, but you can tell. If they really wanted to do something interesting, why couldn’t they have something where neither of them ends up with María and they all just are close friends. Or maybe have Jaquín and Manolo come to some “bros before nice, young ladies” conclusion.
So, with all this, do I hate the film? No, not at all. In fact, I respect it for trying something that really no other animation studio has done and doing it pretty decently. This sort of makes up for the fact that it’s a little cliched. It’s one of the very first animated movies to focus strictly on Hispanic culture, so I understand why it didn’t want to take such big risks. It was already taking a fairly big risk being one of the very first of its kind.
As I watched the film, my fear was calmed and the excitement that I originally had came back. Book of Life did take the many aspects of this culture and find a way to portray them, sometimes using beautiful animation, and other times using comedy, which was, at times pretty good and, at the very least, not trying to be offensive.
The film does have a lot of jokes aimed at young children, but the film does throw a variety of jokes in unnamed-1there, so that everyone will have at least one thing they’ll at least end up sniggering at.
 The animation is stunning and represents the Hispanic art style. The character designs are very detailed and vibrant, especially for characters like La Muerte and Xibalba.
 And its also really admirable that they cast actual Hispanic people to play the characters. Other animation studios have histories of white washing their voice actors, so I’m glad this studio got it right . . . well, for the most part. There is still the matter of Channing Tatum and Ice Cube.
All in all, if you have been interested in seeing it, go right ahead. If not, I would recommend waiting a little bit and seeing if you find Book of Life at a Redbox or on Netflix. It’s not the best, but you might learn something about another culture and enjoy what it has to offer.