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The Dazzling Artistry of 'The Book of Life'

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I'm a little embarrassed to be giving such a rave review to a movie about which I have so little to say.

But The Book of Life fascinated me so much with its style that I took almost no notes on it and can't say much about its themes or even its plot. Its style is beyond my powers of description and I can think of only one movie I can compare it to-- and I'm not sure that one ever went into wide release, though it is available on DVD.

It was called Sita Sings the Blues, and it was based on the art forms of India the way The Book of Life appears to be based on the art forms of Mexico (although I'm no authority on Mexican art). But I've never seen animation like the wildly imaginative figures in The Book of Life.

And don't be put off by that pretentious title. The Book of Life is a romp and a party of a movie, with what plot there is based on universal folklore traditions of love and music and the battle between good and evil. It takes itself so little seriously that it begins with a girl reading a storybook to some tots and ends with an invitation to us to write our own story.

I'm sure it's all computer generated, but it's made to look like Muppets and puppets and balloon animals and geometric figures, with the wildest array of colors and a lot of music and dancing and fighting (that looks like dancing).

And the voice tracks include Christina Applegate and Ice Cube, and songs by Elvis and a whole lot of traditional Mexican songs.

A lot of it is hilarious and some of it is gorgeous. And all of it is new.