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Book of Life, The (2014)

The Book of Life (2014) follows the story of two young boys, the kind-hearted Monolo and the courageous Joaquin, in a contest for the hand of a young girl named, Maria.  The essential gods of this world, La Muerte and Xibalba, one evil and the other good, make a wager to see which of the two young gentlemen will win the hand of said fair maiden.  Then, in a twisted accident, Monolo dies.  Death is a usually a sombre realm, full of terrifying ghosts, drab spirits, and dull colors.  In The Book of Life, Monolo falls into a world where everything is vibrant, with bright reds, yellows, and dazzling splashes of glowing color.  Here, the afterlife is amazing.

First of all, I want to talk about the visuals, my goodness the visuals!  I love the colors, the vibrancy, and the designs.  The fact that every character in this world looks like they've been carved from pieces of wood and pinned together like little puppets is genius.  The detail in the models, from the wood grain, chipped paint, and even the dull shine on the hair work perfectly.  It's a playset, filled with twisted detail, bent buildings, and adorable wooden animals.  Visually, it's stunning.  Everything about the Book of Life is fresh, new, and so freaking inspirational.  Kind of reminds me of Little Big Planet? That's a good thing!

The story kept me interested and invested from the very beginning.  While the striking art direction kept me drawing in and analyzing everything onscreen, the story was full of originality. I enjoyed how the tale cut from present day, with the children hearing the story, to the events that took place with Monolo and Maria.  Yes, it's your standard boy meets girl story, but with a wonderful twist.  The wager between La Muerte and Xibalba added a lot of interesting tension and drama to the story, while the adventure and overall resolution were filled with so much wonder.  I felt like everything wove together exquisitely.  

I suppose a lot of the whimsy comes from the fact that I'm not really familiar with a lot of the ideas.  I know of, and understand a lot of the legends, like the Day of the Dead, but it's portrayed in such a visually graphic way that it stuck with me.

The only thing I can say that I found fault with was how everything kind of worked out in the end.  Not a bad thing, at all.  This may or may not be a spoiler, but if so, spoilers ahead!  I feel like Xibalba gave up too easily, and it was disappointing that the final, end boss if you will, wasn't the undead or the god of death himself.  It was still a very impressive battle, but with all the build up of the wager, I wanted to see a final showdown between Xibalba and La Muerte, in grand fashion.  I mean, everyone kind of just forgave all the messed up things Xibalba did?  There was no consequence to his actions, and none of the other characters, save La Muerte, ever called him out on it.

I mean yes, the day was saved, and they were able to band together and defend the village from the real life threat of invasion, but the root of everything was Xibalba and his twisted need to win the wager! He killed Monolo, and manipulated everything in the story.  He was the cause of all their heartache!  I know he's a god, and they really can't do anything to stop him, but there wasn't even a bit of a grudge against everything he did? And what's to stop him from messing with their lives later in the future?  

Truthfully, I can't really think of anything bad, aside from my nit-picks about the ending.  I adored everything about it!  The Book of Life is an excellent movie.  Easily the best film I had the pleasure of watching all year.  It's a visual treat for the eyes every step of the way, fun, and the music and voice acting complement everything to near perfection.  The designs are wonderfully unique.  It's odd, quirky, and intriguing in the best sense of the word.