Visually and aurally delightful, The Book of Life has a storyline that’s fairly standard stuff—but that’s by design, not a failure of imagination. Director Jorge Gutierrez (who also co-wrote) seems intent on making the definitive movie that will be on TV every year come Day of the Dead, the three-day Mexican and pan-Hispanic festival of remembrance and celebration. And while it’s impossible to say what the future of TV programming will bring, the movie itself is certainly good enough—and good-natured enough—to be so immortalized. The storytelling is elegantly simple and easy to follow even for young kids, though some of the jokes are a little off-color for really young ones. For the grownups, there’s the wildly elaborate animation and inspired choice of songs, both covers and originals (the latter by such worthies as Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams), and the sublime sincerity and engagement of the voice acting (Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and the endlessly surprising Channing Tatum in the leads). Even with the bounty of excellent animated films in recent years, The Book of Life ranks among the elite, a sparkling bit of entertainment.
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