The Book of Life, Big Hero 6



Jorge Gutierrez's The Book of Life and Don Hall's and Chris Williams' Big Hero 6 are mind-bogglingly complex animated treats that are also interesting studies in cultural diversity. 

The Book of Life (principal voices by Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum and Ron Perlman) is the fanciful Mexican tale of the competition between two boyhood friends (Manolo the singer and reluctant bullfighter and Joaquin the town hero) for the affection of a third friend, the lovely and fiercely independent Maria. The story, written by Gutierrez, weaves the dark elements of deals between and pacts with underworld into an amazingly ornamental tapestry that celebrates and extols Latin culture but does make one wonder, as one of the characters in the film does, "What is it with Mexicans and death?" The film features several styles of animation but showcases dazzling, textured characters and backgrounds that have the grainy, wooden appearance of marionettes. It's a stunningly detailed piece of work, with a sophisticated view of adult themes, but whose darkness might be a little too upsetting for the youngest ones.

Big Hero 6 is set in an Amerasian metropolis called San Fransokyo and stars a Amerasian genius named Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) whose brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) attends the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. Hiro finished high school at 13 but rather than go to college he builds robots and enters them in bot fights. Tadashi turns his younger brother onto the possibilities of serious robotics by introducing him to his invention -- an outsized, huggable mass of TLC called Baymax, who diagnoses and treats human injuries and ailments. (Another truly inspired character from the folks at Disney.) When a tragic accident delivers a huge dose of reality, young Hiro springs into action with the aid of his robotically modified, inflatable buddy and a colorful crew of students from the institute. The film has some weaknesses, narratively, but I can't imagine anyone not loving the relationship between this boy and his battle-ready nurse. Splendid.

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