A visually stimulating film that really shows you the power of true love.
When I saw the trailers for this movie, I knew I would go see it. But after seeing so many animated films, I was pretty sure I knew the plot and what it was all about. But the truth is that I knew nothing about it at all. This is a film about three friends, but more than that, it is about how strong love can be and how hard it can be to obtain, but that if you never give up the rewards are more than worth it. This film has a great blend of Mexican folklore, amazing special effects and a plot that is original and also very clever. It is the perfect film to go see with a date, or one you can take your kids to see.
The film takes place in the land of San Angel, where three friends named Maria, Joaquin and Manolo live. It is the “Day of the Dead,”, a special day where everyone in the town makes offerings and remembers those loved ones who are no longer with them. It is a magical day where it is believed that if you truly remember those you love, you will be able to feel them by your side. Manolo’s mother is no longer with him, and Joaquin has a dad who was killed by a dangerous bandit named Chakal. It is apparent both of these boys love Maria. So on this mystical night a wager is made. One spirit bets that Maria will end up with Manolo, and the other other bets that Maria will end up with Joaquin. After a terrible incident that almost kills Maria’s father, her dad sends her away to a boarding school. She is sad and doesn’t want to go, but she has no choice. The three friends are separated, and are not sure when they will see each other again.
Many years pass, Manolo has become a bullfighter following the tradition of his family, except he refuses to kill them at the end. Joaquin has become the son the Mayor never had, and is also the town hero. On the day Maria returns, there is a big celebration in the town. The love that Manolo and Joaquin had for Maria is stronger than ever, and this causes an interesting love triangle. Although Joaquin is the obvious choice because of his wealth and bravery, he is also very vain. Manolo has nothing, except his music and the guitar she gave him with the words “always play from the heart.” This Manolo does his best to do, although his father would prefer him to be a bullfighter and not a singer.
After a beautiful scene where Manolo has set up a trail of candles leading Maria to him (which is really well animated by the way). He admits to her his love and that although he doesn’t have much, he will always love her and do everything he can to protect her. Maria admits she loves him too, but before they can kiss an odd looking snake comes out, and she pushes Manolo out of the way. This saves his life, but sadly not hers. Manolo is banished from the town and blamed for this terrible tragedy. A strange looking spirit comes to Manolo, and says he can help him get back together with his love. Manolo accepts, and gets transported to an unbelievable world. He is reunited with his family, and they are all wonderful characters. All the men were daring bullfighters, who died by performing risky tasks in the ring. He is reunited with his mother, and it is a very heartwarming scene to watch. Don’t be ashamed men if a tear or two leave your eyes, it is perfectly normal. But after Manolo is there for a while, he finds out he has been tricked. Where is Maria really? Is she okay? How will Manolo get back to her before she marries Joaquin? And why is Chakal so eager to come back to their town?
Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana are perfect together in this movie as Maria and Manolo. They have a wonderful chemistry, and are a blast to watch interact together. There is a bond between their characters from the start,and the scenes where Manolo plays the guitar, Maria gave him, are very well done. Each song he plays fits the scene perfectly, and the more he plays the easier it gets for him to sing songs that are heartfelt and true to the situation going on. It is hard to imagine anyone else voicing these characters, if they did it just would not have been as good as a film.
Channing Tatum is hilarious as Joaquin. His character has a big ego, is really into talking about himself and yet he is willing to be a hero when he needs to be. He really plays this character well, not once does it feel fake or forced. It is rare to see him do voice work like this, but honestly he should do it more often, he is really good at it. I also enjoyed Ice Cube in this movie, as a role I will not spoil here, but he adds a lot of comedy with it. He shows up in a number of serious scenes, and it lightens the mood when he talks. I always laughed at anything he said, the character is not only original but also very important to the movie.
The soundtrack is amazing. The songs can be a bit modern, but to hear them played on Manolo’s guitar is awesome. It is a new way to hear some classic songs, and I enjoyed each one he played. It took me back to a simpler time, and made me want to sing along. The special effects are unique, they give the characters an almost puppet like look. The effects are the coolest in the “Land of the Remembered,” with such vivid colors and exquisite characters that make it one of the best locations in the entire film. There is also a darker land that I will not spoil here, but the effects make it darker and scarier than you would think possible, which I personally enjoyed. The plot also flows really well, and brings a lot of twists that you just won’t see coming, I know I was surprised by what happened more than once.
This movie did okay this weekend, it got the #3 spot and made $17 million. It received very good reviews from audiences,and critics seemed to enjoy it too. Here is hoping it does better in the coming weeks. I think it has a good chance since it is one of the only family films out.
If you are a looking for a great film to see around Halloween with your kids, this is the film you should take them to. If you want to see a really unique animated feature, look no further. It is a film like nothing you have ever seen before, and one you will want to see again and again.