*** out of 5
Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images
20th Century Fox
Article first published as Movie Review: ‘The Book of Life’ (2014) on Blogcritics.
While Guillermo del Toro may usually serve up a slam dunk when he
sits in the director’s chair, his producing efforts are a little weaker.
Although to be fair, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Mama
are better than you’ve probably heard. Del Toro was brought in to spice
things up for DreamWorks Animation in conjunction with being able to
kick off his own production company in order to make horror movies for
kids. The first step in this direction is plastering his name on Jorge
Gutierrez’s “Day of the Dead”-inspired The Book of Life. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of life to be found.
If you find yourself getting lost in the onslaught of plot, don’t
worry, you won’t be alone. The only way one could really enjoy The Book of Life
would be to sit back and enjoy the visuals. Reel FX Creative Studios
created a fantastic-looking film, chock full of skeletons and skulls,
but Gutierrez’s screenplay (co-written by TV vet Doug Langdale, also of
Gutierrez’s animated series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera)
completely whitewashes (i.e. Americanizes) everything. They also fall
back on the old DreamWorks attitude that pop songs used out of context
are hilarious. For anyone who’s already sick of Mumford & Sons’ “I
Will Wait,” mind your ears.
The other huge annoyance is how out of place Tatum sounds among the
Hispanic voice cast. There’s no way his name is being used as a box
office draw since you don’t get to actually look at him. Also, be warned
that there is a deluge of poop and pee jokes. At least one of each just
in the opening scene! I admit, for the first half hour I was relatively
enchanted by the animation style, but once the plot kicks in everything
starts to sputter and never picks back up. The worst offense for any
animated feature is boredom, but that’s all that’s left to find in The Book of Life.
Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox