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Perry’s Previews Movie Review: The Book of Life

Published on: 21st October, 2014

Perry’s Previews Movie Review: The Book of Life

3.5 starfish TM
(3.5 out of 5 starfish)

By Perry S. Chen

October 20, 2014

The animated movie “The Book of Life” begins when a school bus arrives at a history museum, full of rowdy, mischievous children. An experienced female tour guide leads the students on a secret tour, and tells them about the most famous Mexican legend of all time, written within the magical book of life. The main characters of the folktale are Joaquin, Manolo, and Maria. Manolo’s passion is music, despite his father’s pressure for him to become a bullfighter. Joaquin hopes to become a soldier and avenge the death of his father. Both boys are in love with Maria, and would do anything to win her love.


On the Day of the Dead, an argument arises between the two Gods of the Dead. Xibalba is the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, a bleak and dismal realm where forgotten souls are erased from existence. He is tired of living in his shadowy realm. He covets the Land of the Remembered, a joyous realm of endless festivity where souls of the deceased live on the memories of their loved ones. However, the Land of the Remembered is ruled by the Goddess La Muerte, who won’t give up her dominion so easily. Spying the three children, Xibalba makes a wager on which boy Maria would marry, the winner gets full control of the underworld. He bets on Joaquin, while La Muerte bets on Manolo. Most of the story focuses on Manolo and tells things from his point of view, about 20 years later.


The Book of Life is a colorful, lighthearted, and festive movie, full of comedy and nonstop excitement. The movie is fast-paced, with constant music, action, and drama happening every second. The character designs are uniquely stylized, and are largely made up of geometric shapes. Each character’s joints are connected with screws, and the texture of wood is slightly visible on the skin, always reminding the viewer that they are only puppets. Every bit of the visuals, from the patterns on garments to the shapes in the architecture, has deep Hispanic influence.


Although The Book of Life has many great qualities, there are still things I don’t like. Firstly, to me the concept of two guys fighting over one girl feels so bland and unoriginal, seeing as countless movies have done it beforehand. At times, the nonstop action sequences could be a bit overwhelming. Most of all, I feel that the film didn’t portray its message of love very well. It seemed that, in the movie, Maria is some sort of prize to be won, acquired by performing various tasks for her, especially on the part of Joaquin. Not enough time is spent on actually showing how love profoundly affected each of the male characters, other than one or two examples on the part of Manolo.


At the very end of the movie, one of the boys did, indeed, marry Maria. The thing that made me question the supposed “depth” of the love that the losing man felt for Maria was because, once he realized Maria was already taken, he happily flirted with all the other girls. He didn’t even seem to care that the supposed “love of his life” was gone forever; it was as if Maria never mattered at all. Last thing I’ll point out: I didn’t really expect anyone else to win the hand of Maria either (it’s pretty easy to guess).


I recommend this film to ages 9 and up. The Book of Life is a rollicking, exciting comedy that is a pretty well-rounded film overall. If you are looking for an exciting and entertaining film, then I would definitely recommend The Book of Life. I give this movie 3.5 starfish.


Moral: Stay true to yourself no matter what.


Copyright 2014 by Perry S. Chen


About Perry Chen:

Perry S. Chen is a 14-year-old award-winning child critic, artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currently in 8th grade from San Diego.  He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television), Variety, Animation Magazine, The Young Icons, The Guardian, The China Press, etc.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation, and has written movie reviews for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews blog, as well as restaurant reviews for DiningOut San Diego Magazine and San Diego Entertainer. He won the San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2013 for his movie and restaurant reviews.

Perry is currently writing, animating, and directing his most personal film to date, “Changyou’s Journey,” produced by his mom Dr. Zhu Shen, about his beloved father Dr. Changyou Chen, a cancer researcher who passed away in July 2012 from terminal cancer after a long, brave battle, please watch trailer and donate to support Perry’s animation film:

Perry won an “Excellence in Journalism Award” from San Diego Press Club in 2010 and 2011 for his movie and restaurant reviews, an “Excellence Writer Award” from “We Chinese in America” Magazine in 2010 for his movie review column. Perry is widely recognized as an authoritative spokesperson about movies for his generation, and appears frequently at red carpet movie premieres, awards, and film festivals, interviewing prominent directors from such films as Toy Story 3, Up, How to Train Your Dragon.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation in Hollywood.  Perry and his mom Dr. Zhu Shen are featured in a new book about parenting and youth entrepreneurship, “The Parent’s Guide to Raising CEO Kids,” published in Aug 2011.

Perry’s first animation short “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” in collaboration with animation legend Bill Plympton, won multiple film festival awards and has been screened at over 30 international film festivals, now available on iTunes. More info:

Watch “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest” on iTunes:

Watch Perry on “Live Life & Win” national TV show:

Become a fan on Facebook: (Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest official FB page) (Perry’s Previews fan page)

Subscribe to Perry’s YouTube channel and watch his filmmaker interviews:

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For business inquiries about Perry Chen, his animation films, movie reviews, contact Dr. Zhu Shen, cc0218 at gmail dot com


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