Finally got the opportunity to watch this movie after being super stoked for it since the trailers came out. Without spoiling anything, I’ll go ahead and tell you this much: The entire thing happened because two gods, bored and unsatisfied with their marriage, decided they’d make a bet on a bunch of little kids.
The thing about gods in this movie though, they’re pretty much the same as gods the world over. That is, they don’t much give a care about humans and their lives or plans, and have no qualms what so ever about giving great gifts and powers to small children and placing bets on the outcome of their lives- even if it sets them up for an entire life of familial strain and inner turmoil.
Although to be fair, when your job description is looking after all the human souls that die, and seeing them more or less happier for having passed away, and being immortal, you probably care less and less about their mortal deaths and conundrums as time passes.
The film follows the tale of three friends, a lovely little free spirited girl and two young boys, one of them kinda sensitive and the other kinda a douche, vying for her affection. The two gods, the shiny and beautiful La Muerta and the dark and creepy Xibalba, place bets on which boy will win.
The treachery and cheating that happens next sends one of the boys on the fast track to being a mighty hero, and ultimately sends the other one through literal Hell to get his life back.
The entire movie gives off a very “Corpse Bride” feel, but it more than made up for everything Corpse Bride was missing. Every Tim Burton esque film about the afterlife has spooky skeletons mouldering away in a slightly shabbier underground version of London with a limited color palette. This movie takes the term “limited color palette” and stuffs it up a piñata’s ass because this is without a doubt one of the most colorful, vibrant and energetic movies to hit theaters this year.
Corpse Bride seemed to revel in the notion of a happy afterlife, but this movie seems like an ACTUALLY happy one, something to look forward to, full of joy and comfort and color; full of family that’s happy to welcome you there, and mountains of good food and wine in an endless celebration.
The afterlife is actually kind of a funny point in this movie, because many of the background characters and elements are unabashedly Catholic; yet here we have empirical proof of at least three pagan gods existing. I mean, one of them is a tarman zombie named ‘Xibalba’ there’s no way in any Hell that these figures are Christian, so it’s a funny thing to think about. And yes, when I said three gods, there are three of them… but the third one I really didn’t feel like he had much of a point in being there. He managed to be the one legitimately too-loud and annoying portion of the movie.
Where films like Boxtrolls had subdued colors and controlled pacing, and How to Train Your Dragon revelled in hyper-realistic fantasy worlds, this one plays out very much like a puppet-show, with wooden dolls for figures and paper cut out backgrounds that work very well with the vibrant theme. The generous allowance for in-movie physics also allows the figures to be pushed to their outer limits in terms of speed and believability while not sacrificing readability.
It treats its subject matter with respect (and it should, being made by a few ACTUAL Mexicans, no less) and makes no second guesses about the culture its steeped in. Everywhere there are signs of the local religion and architecture and it’s full of Aztec imagery through out, it’s a wholly Mexican film that probably would have been even better in Spanish. Though it’s not like an American released children’s film would play in any language other than English so I can’t bitch too much.
It’s very peppy and full of spirit and laughs, but it also has some heavy moments that tug at the heartstrings and even a few legitimately frightening moments in which it does well to earn its pg rating.
All in all it’s a very fun flick about love, friendship, and throwing the middle phalange to fate and carving out your own story in the world- even if by the end of it, the conniving immortals who put you up to it are laughing it off in the afterlife.