The Book of Life (PG)
Is it just me or did this get buried in the backyard of general memory by Coco? Both are heavily inspired by Mexican culture and the Day of the Dead, and have a main character who wants to be a musician but is opposed by his family, a visit to the Land of the Dead, and the idea of there being a second death for the forgotten. That'd be a bit of a shame, because I liked this a bit more than Coco.
For starters, Manolo's father doesn't berate him for wanting to be a musician because his great-great grandmother got pissed off at her husband and forbade music but because it's family tradition to go into bullfighting, which is a lot more relatable for anyone who wanted to be an artist but their parents made them go into accounting or something. In the Land of the Dead, Manolo runs into an ancestor who dreamed of being an actor but was also forced into bullfighting. I thought this was leading to a twist that every Sanchez, including Manolo's own father, wanted to be something else but their fathers all made them be bullfighters, but I guess they didn't have the time to pursue that.
While Coco played the "boring-ass twist villain" card Disney's been using so often the edges are frayed and the text is barely readable from all the Cheeto dust fingerprints, Book of Life sets up three antagonists that turns into one, maybe one and a half actual villains. Joaquin isn't a bad guy, just weak-willed and looking for the easy path, but gets his shit together and kicks ass in the end. And Xibalba struck me as bitter about his lot in existence instead of truly evil, and so desperate for a taste of the festive afterlife La Muerte rules over he cheats to get what he wants want, not unlike Joaquin. He's like Disney's Hades if he was just grumpy instead of malicious and not voiced by an asshole. I hope? Please don't tell me Ron Perlman is a white supremacist or something?
And Chakal... yeah, fuck that guy.
If I have one gripe, it's that the pacing goes through all kinds of whiplash when it gets to the Land of the Dead. Manolo shows up there, asks a guide about his family, and the guide literally goes "Oh, yeah, that's them right there!" and throws him into a parade, onto his family's float, at the feet of one of his ancestors. And he gets over the obstacles on his way to the Land of the Forgotten so quickly it kinda devalues how hard it's supposed to be. I understanding getting to the point, but this is just jarring.