The Book of Like

All Souls Day. Dia de los Muertos. The Book of Life.
Rich traditions occur in many faiths and cultures, and today I experienced this in a fun and colorful way. After attending weekly Sunday Mass with my family, we decided to see DreamWorks animated feature, The Book of Life, and explain why I give it a "Liked It" rather than "Loved It" rating based on it's Style, Story, and Spirit.

Today is November 2nd, and the Catholic church observes this day as "The Feast of All Souls Day", to remember and pray for those family and friends whom have died. In the film, Mary Beth (voiced by Christina Applegate), actually references "November 2nd" (which I thought was an odd coincidence) as Dia de los Muertos, or "The Day of the Dead". This is a Mexican holiday where family and friends gather to pray for, honor and colorfully celebrate their deceased family members.

The Style
Often times, I determine whether I will see an animated film based on the designs of the characters from the posters and trailers. At first glance, this was not a film I was excited to see. As a matter of fact, if the character designs aren't esthetically pleasing to look at, rarely will the film hold my attention, even with a strong story. So the character designs in my opinion, were the weakest part of the film. From a design perspective, the two most enjoyable characters for me were "La Muerte", and some awesome animation with "The CandleMaker" (voiced vivaciously by Ice Cube)! The rest of the characters had a difficult time keeping my interest, and the vibrant amounts of color representing "The Land of the Remembered" seemed almost psychedelic.*

The Story
*Disclaimer: I am a Californian caucasian, and newly confirmed Catholic, so my knowledge and understanding of both these celebrated holidays is extremely limited. But this is where the beauty of the story on an educational level was so enriching. I truly enjoyed the history in this story as written and directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, whom I have no doubt consulted talented and knowledgable cultural advisors to maintain accuracy and authenticity in this film. So I can appreciate the artistic, colorful and cultural representation of "The Land of the Remembered", as a realm full of life and vitality. This film was captivating, giving me a greater appreciation for the meanings behind these traditions in the Hispanic culture, almost as if I was in a "hip" History class! (Imagine if all classes were taught with animated films!)

The Spirit
Being a man of faith, it was a pleasure to see the depth of the messages that were related to the audience. Faith. Family. Friendship. Forgiveness. Fortitude. The first moment in the film that piqued my interest was when Mary Beth, the museum guide, delved into the story of "The Land of the Remembered" and "The Land of the Forgotten". This caused me to pause for a moment and think of my own family and friends that have passed away, and it suddenly gave the movie more relevance.

I also enjoyed Manolo's journey through the realms, and the charismatic characters he interacts with. It is through his music, his feelings are explained, not just for Maria, but also in a touching testimony to a tempered Toro! He stays true to who he is, and seeing virtues like this is what our society needs more of in my opinion.

Overall, I enjoyed this film more for the message and cultural material, than for the animation. It was Education over Esthetics, and Content over Character Design, which is why I'm rating The Book of Life, as "The Book of "Like".

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