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|Originaltitel:||The Book of Life|
|Genre:||Animation, Children's Movie, Adventure, Fantasy|
|Regie:||Jorge R. Gutierrez|
|Laufzeit:||Approx. 97 min.|
|FSK:||From 6 years|
Manolo (spoken by Giovanni Zarrella) is supposed to continue the family tradition and become a successful bullfighter. But actually he would much rather play guitar and sing and thus conquer the heart of Maria (Pegah Ferydoni). But even his best friend Joaquin has his eye on the beautiful Maria. A tricky situation that becomes even more complicated when Maria has to leave her hometown. As the years go by, the lives of the two friends change. But one thing always remains constant: her firm will to wait for Maria in order to be able to compete for her favour. But when she finally returns, the battle for her heart becomes an essential battle between good and evil, between the realm of the living and the dead - a battle in which Manolo has more to lose than Maria's love…
"Manolo and the Book of Life" is a matter of the heart for director Jorge R. Gutierrez and producer Guillermo Del Toro. It was important to both of them to incorporate a large piece of Mexican folklore into the story and look of the film. The result should be a pictorial declaration of love for their country, its history and its legends, but at the same time easily accessible to an international audience. The result takes some getting used to visually, yet it's extremely fascinating. Dramaturgically, on the other hand, a very conventional story is tried here, which is further watered down by the unfortunately unsuccessful dubbing.
The ambitious look would have deserved a better story in any case. Because the world that Gutierrez and Del Toro have conjured up on the screen differs in almost all aspects from everything that could be seen in animated children's films of the recent past. Whether it's the wooden figure look of the figures or the designs inspired by Latin American folk art in the Land of the Memories and the Land of the Forgotten, all this offers the viewer countless little details in which you can really get lost in the good 3D version. Moreover, the film is filled with small, very weird ideas - a pig squealing in the most unusual way in film history is just one of many examples - all of which make clear how much ingenuity, love and passion this animation adventure was worked with.
That this is only partially reflected in the story is also negatively noticeable by the somewhat extreme use of vocal parts. In principle, the idea of presenting well-known songs in Latin American cover versions is not bad at all. But the implementation is simply terrible, especially in the German version. This starts with the completely inconsistent choice of language: if the first song is still in the English original, the next songs are interpreted with a not exactly convincingly faked accent, which then disappears completely in the last song. That's not very flattering for the songs of Elvis Presley, Radiohead, Rod Stewart or Mumford and Sons. It may be that Giovanni Zarrella is not a bad singer in principle. But he is Italian and not a Mexican torero with a heart full of music - and you can hear that too clearly in his film accent.
"Manolo and the Book of Life" is one of those films you really want to love in order to appreciate the visual creativity and courage for the unadapted look. But unfortunately this is made extremely difficult again and again, be it by the rather weak story, the disappointing dubbing or the not very convincing songs. The rule here is: Ears closed and through. Because only for the eye is this fairy tale really a celebration. Altogether however applies: Only with clear compromises worth seeing!
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