Viva la muerte, kids

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE BOOK OF LIFE Di­rected by Jorge R Gu­tier­rez. Voices of Chan­ning Ta­tum, Zoë Sal­dana, Ron Perl­man, Diego Luna, Kate del Castillo. G cert, gen re­lease, 95 min Just as Henry Selick’s The Night­mare Be­fore Christ­mas was of­ten at­trib­uted to its pro­ducer Tim Bur­ton, this rather lovely an­i­ma­tion by Jorge R Gu­tier­rez is be­ing flogged as a Guillermo del Toro project. It does in­deed bear its pro­ducer’s stamp. Fired up on Latin Amer­i­can myth, not afraid to ask chil­dren to en­gage with mor­tal­ity, The Book of Life could work as a gate­way drug to del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Sadly, the story is not as im­pres­sive as the vi­su­als and the jokes rarely take flight. This may be the sort of fam­ily film that at­tracts more sober ad­mi­ra­tion than gen­uine love. Wary that the Mex­i­can set­ting may scare off less ad­ven­tur­ous kids from other coun­tries, the film-mak­ers give us a fram­ing se­quence that finds a mu­seum tour-guide telling a school party the core story. There’s a lot of nar­ra­tive to go round. A po­et­i­cally minded mu­si­cian (voiced by Diego Luna) and a gruff sol­dier (Chan­ning Ta­tum) try to win over a well-ed­u­cated señorita (Zoe Sal­dana). There’s more at stake than mere hu­man hap­pi­ness. The glam­orous La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and the ter­ri­fy­ingly green Xibalba (Ron Perl­man), both su­per­nat­u­ral be­ings, take a gam­ble as to which suitor will be suc­cess­ful. Some trans­fer of pow­ers will take place ac­cord­ing to which chap gets the ring. The Book of Life looks ab­so­lutely gor­geous. Com­bin­ing Day-of-the-Dead aes­thet­ics – the char­ac­ters are ver­sions of pup­pets – with a slight Pi­casso feel, the an­i­ma­tion buzzes with colour and en­ergy. The oc­ca­sional out­breaks of lib­er­al­ism do not lessen the film’s com­mit­ment to in­ves­ti­gate the dark side of the hu­man con­di­tion: bull­fight­ing is dis­cour­aged, but we still embrace the un­der­world to come. Un­for­tu­nately, the tale does me­an­der and the at­tempts at juke­box mu­si­cal­ity are a lit­tle mis­guided. Ra­dio­head’s Creep works well enough. That Mum­ford and Sons thing is less than wel­come. Im­pres­sive stuff nonethe­less. THE WAY HE LOOKS (HOJE EU QUERO VOLTAR SOZ­INHO) Di­rected by Daniel Ribeiro. Star­ring Ghil­herme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim, Lu­cia

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