Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Book of Life

Year 7, Day 305 - 11/1/15 - Movie #2,190

BEFORE: Halloween season is over, all we really did besides handing out candy was to go have a pre-Halloween meal in a diner that was decorated with skeletons and such.  I would have liked it more if they would have taken the time to re-title all the menu items with scary names like "Scream of Turkey soup" and "Fettucini Afraid-o", really, is that too much to ask?  Ghoul-ash, sand-witches, killed cheese, maybe a B-Hell-T, that's all I want.  

After Halloween comes the Mexican Day of the Dead, which is really three days, spanning from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, but because of the Halloween-like tie-in, I'm putting it here.  And linking from "Fun Size", Kerri Kenney-Silver was also in "Reno 911: Miami" with Carlos Alazraqui (last heard in "Planes"), who provides a voice tonight.  

THE PLOT: Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

AFTER: It's a riff on the classic Orpheus story, where a man has to descend into the underworld in the name of love, but there's a twist.  Instead of traveling down to Hell to try and bring his lady back, he encounters his family in the Land of the Remembered, and has to atone for their long history of bullfighting in order to gain a second chance at life and love.  This also involves a trip to the Land of the Forgotten - it turns out Mexicans have two hells, run by La Muerte and Xibalba, two spirit entities who have a love/hate relationship.

It all starts with a classic love triangle between Manolo, Joaquin and Maria.  Manolo wants to be a musician and singer, but his father forces him to train as a bullfighter.  Joauqin is raised to be a soldier and protector of the town.  The two rulers of hell each pick one as their champion and make a wager over which one will marry Maria when they grow up.  If Joaquin wins the bet for Xibalba, he gets to swap underworld kingdoms with La Muerte, and if Manolo wins, then Xibalba agrees to stop meddling in human affairs.  

I'm not that familiar with Mexican mythology, so I can't really poke holes in the story, but it seemed pretty solid as a plot.  I think they rode a fine line, however, with the gender politics - they tried to make it clear that Maria didn't belong to anyone, that she was a strong, independent woman.  But still she was encouraged to marry Joaquin so that their town would be protected.  Two steps forward, one step back for women's rights, I guess.  

In the same way, I appreciate a film trying to take a stand against the cruel sport of bullfighting.  But let's be real, if the story is set back in the 1800's or early 1900's, it's doubtful that anyone in Mexico would really care about animal rights.  Plus, wouldn't any bulls not killed in the bullfighting ring end up being killed in some other way, in order to be eaten?  So that's probably a futile effort. 

My only other quibble is the portrayal of the afterlife as a large, city-wide fiesta - well, if it's so great, then why are we all wasting our time on Earth, let's get to the party!  That's maybe a bit of a strange message for a kids' film.  Dying is no big deal, if people can come back as ghosts or make wagers to win their way back to life.  

Other than that, I really enjoyed this animated film - some of the character designs are a bit weird, like Maria just looks like a giant Bratz doll, but that's the style someone really wanted for this, so whatever.

Also starring the voices of Diego Luna (last seen in "Elysium"), Zoe Saldana (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy"), Channing Tatum (last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Ron Perlman (last seen in "Pacific Rim"), Christina Applegate (last seen in "Anchorman 2"), Ice Cube (also last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Kate del Castillo, Hector Elizondo (last seen in "New Year's Eve"), Danny Trejo (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Gabriel Iglesias (also last heard in "Planes"), Cheech Marin (last seen in "Masked and Anonymous"),  Miguel Sandoval (last seen in "Up Close & Personal"), Ana de la Reguera.

RATING: 7 out of 10 baby pigs

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