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"The Book of Life": Cartoons Discover the Strong Female Lead 

Tuesday, Oct 14 2014
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Jorge R. Gutierrez's The Book of Life is the best American 3D/CGI animated film of 2014. (This is distinct from 2014's best American 2D animated film, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls — Rainbow Rocks, or the best Japanese anime, Patema Inverted.) On the Day of the Dead in old Mexico, La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), queen of the pleasant afterlife called the Land of the Remembered, makes a wager with Xibalba (Ron Perlman), king of the not-so-pleasant Land of the Forgotten: Will the beautiful Maria (Zoe Saldana) choose to marry her childhood friend Manolo (Diego Luna), a kindly singer pressured into becoming a bullfighter by his family, or her other friend Joaquin (Channing Tatum), a decorated soldier with a dark secret to his success? And how far will either of them go for her? While these kinds of movies often don't know what to do with their female characters — yeah, you, Lego Movie and Boxtrolls — Maria is a revelation, a fiercely independent woman integral to the story who rejects society's expectations of her. The Book of Life is stunningly gorgeous and very funny, but that's no longer enough, and the picture also has a strong emotional core. It even earns its big all-cast dance at the end.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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