The Book of Life (4 stars)

The Book of Life

Exuberant animation featuring the voices of Channing Tatum and Zoe Saldana

Inspired by Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead, director Jorge R Gutierrez and producer Guillermo del Toro's charming animated adventure begins with a museum guide (Christina Applegate) introducing a bunch of detention kids to Mexican folklore, telling them a story from 'The Book of Life'.

The tale concerns a classic love triangle: bullfighter and aspiring singer Manolo (Diego Luna) and his best friend, moustachioed military hero Joaquin (Channing Tatum) are both in love with the same woman – the feisty, free-spirited Maria (Zoe Saldana). However, unbeknownst to the trio, squabbling gods La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman) have made a wager over which man will win Maria's heart and the sneaky Xibalba is determined to win at all costs, tricking Manolo into venturing into The Land of the Remembered, where he encounters his dead ancestors.

Gutierrez's lively, colourful animation dazzles throughout, containing visual references to Mexican folk art and packing each frame with tiny details that will reward future viewings. The film's distinctive look extends to the wonderful character designs, with the protagonists of the main story resembling wooden puppets. There's also a delightful soundtrack, which features both original songs and fun mariachi versions of hits such as Radiohead's 'Creep'.

The script is packed with great gags, with the book set-up allowing for some amusing commentary by the listening children; and it explores some potentially dark themes, such as the death of family members, in sensitive and imaginative ways. In addition, the voice-work is superb, with Tatum on top comic form (he even bags his own catchphrase) and Luna and Saldana doing a fine job of singing their own songs. This is a highly entertaining, beautifully animated adventure that should prove a hit with both adults and children alike. A treat.

General release from Fri 24 Oct.

The Book of Life Official Trailer (2014) Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum HD

The Book of Life

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 35min
  • U
  • Directed by: Jorge R Gutierrez
  • Cast: Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Diego Luna, Ron Perlman
  • UK release: 24 October 2014

Manolo (Luna) and best friend Joaquin (Tatum) are both in love with feisty Maria (Saldana), but it all goes El Sur when squabbling gods La Muerte (del Castillo) and Xibalba (Perlman) make a wager over who'll win her. Lively, colourful animation exploring dark themes, with great gags, superb voice work, and a delightful…