In the crowded field of feature-length animated films, it’s a pleasant surprise to see something come along out of nowhere, with little expectation or hype around it, and stake its own strong claim for being original, inventive and highly unusual when compared to its peers. Although this doesn’t do anything profound with its children’s animation template story-wise, it is a dazzlingly-animated, emotionally engaging and intriguingly-themed piece which takes some real risks with its subject matter that pay off handsomely. Riffing off the Mexican holiday festival Day of the Dead, and bringing along its associated kaleidoscope of colours, it’s great to see an American animated film openly embrace the culture of one its ethnic minorities, celebrating Mexican folklore with some stunning visuals.

One of the interesting things about the Day of the Dead is its friendly attitude to things most of the Western world consider malignant – skeletons, death and the underworld are usually represented in horror films by Hollywood standards, but here they’re either comedic or just a natural part of life. You can’t help but think this is a healthier attitude to promote. The idea that kids would watch this and not only have a more mature outlook on death but also be exposed to Latino culture a little more is quite heartening, and more than makes up for a script that makes you smile rather than laugh. With the animation style essentially a CGI imitation of wooden stop-motion, there really isn’t else anything like this out there, stylistically or thematically.

THE BOOK OF LIFE
An explosion of colour and detail to rival the festival it's based on9
A positive depiction of Latino culture and Mexican folklore9
A positive depiction of the afterlife and the underworld8
Computer-generated animation, but made to look like wooden stop-motion9
A slightly nonsensical story without much wit6
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
Bechdel Test Failures
  • They only talk about men
8Overall Score

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