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THIS WEEK: The bizarre CG-animated adventure/love story/fairy tale from Mexican lore involving two boys/men vying for the same senorita as part of a wager between the Queen of the Land Of The Remembered and the King of the Land Of The Forgotten.
Written by Jorge R. Gutierrez and Douglas Langdale; Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez.
First, for those new to these reviews, get the skinny on how they work and access to previous ones here.
- As with most animated flicks, it’s all about the visuals. The character designs are unlike any I’ve ever seen in any animated flick. More “traditional-looking” gringo kids on a field trip to a museum are shown a fairy tale about Mexican wooden puppets. The puppets and their world take over the film.
[MIKE: Some of them look like the drawings of Gary Panter or Mike Diana and other underground cartoonists–and perhaps those of producer Guillermo del Toro–come to three-dimensional life.] Creative, wild, bizarre, ugly, beautiful, whatever, but the adjectives most fitting are unique and original.
- The two rulers, La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman), look the coolest. Xibalba literally has skulls for eyeballs! Some of their movement is painfully obviously computer-driven, but the designs make up for it. [MIKE: The colors and intricacies of the costuming and environments are nothing short of spectacular!]
- The story is nice for kids (see “Cons” below), with just a couple bodily function gags to make ‘em giggle. Other gags work well. The family stuff and love story are sweet.
- Cool looking bulls, especially the gimongous one toward the end–guaranteed you’ve never seen one like that before.
- Casting is good. The goils will say that animated Channing Tatum is not as hot as the live action one, however. But Ice Cube as a bald, candle-making Mexican Santa? Pure gold.
- Some of the song lyrics are funny.
- If you’re Mexican or dig the culture, there’s plenty to appreciate. For the gringos like me, I learned a few things about Day Of The Dead and other traditions. (I hate learning about other cultures, but this wasn’t bad.)
- Nice plot twists; doesn’t fit the stereotypical fairy tale in many ways. Death is relative and fits the story well. If your kid has lost a loved one, this should help them understand/deal with it a little better. And it’s not sad.
- If you prefer traditional, rounded animated characters, this is an acquired taste that may take some getting used to. Sometimes it’s tough to tell what body/facial features are which on some characters, and the father and son look very alike except for a mustache. And everyone is made of wood. (So technically, all the guys have woodies! HA!)
- Won’t do anything to help the body image of young girls. The heroine’s waist is literally the same size as her arms!
- Pigs that sound more like people bleating like sheep.
- Too many songs for this straight macho dude. But kids and wimmen and gay guys should be fine with it. [CRAIG: speaking as a gay guy, there’s nothing worse than too many songs! (see: Frozen)]
- A few scenes might be a bit intense/visually scary for real little ones. A couple toddlers cried in the theater, but that could easily have been because they needed an undies change or weren’t gettin’ enough popcorn.
- No opening short, no button at the end, no outtakes or Pixar-worthy stuff during the credits.
Obviously, if yer in the animation biz or a major fan of this kinda thing, see it on the big screen to absorb the gazillion details. (Or if you have screaming kids you need to get out of the house for a couple hours.) But for average blokes like me, you can wait. If for no other reason, you’ll want to pause, rewind and slow down several scenes just for all that cool design stuff. And fast forward past the love songs.
P.S.: Pascale has been mistaken for Mexican and likes some Mexican food. So he’s the perfect guy to draw you an original commission of a hot senorita (or senor). Just ask Craig here!