A soundtrack worth dying for: “The Book of Life”

Manolo, Book of Life

A candy-colored confection of animation that celebrates the Day of the Dead, the soundtrack for The Book of Life is as exceptional as the vocal casting.  To have the soulful Diego Luna as our hero, Manolo, Zoe Saldana voicing the spirited Maria, and a very funny Channing Tatum playing the vain-glorious rival is a treat. But add in Ice Cube, Cheech Marin and Plácido Domingo..and you have constant aural surprises!

I believe The Apology Song is likely to be nominated for an Oscar.  Yes, it’s that good!  It should also be required listening for all bullies in our combative society!  Diego Luna not only voices the young Manolobut also sings a pair of memorable songs by Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla and songwriter Paul Williams. Manolo croons the ballad I Love You Too Much to Maria to express his undying devotion, and The Apology Song is Manolo’s plea in the Land of the Forgotten when he has to face the collective spirit of every bull to die in the ring. Simple and moving, it had me in tears in the theater.

The soundtrack features mariachi versions of Radiohead’s Creep, Mumford & Sons’ I Will Wait and Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love with You arranged by Santaolalla.

(The Book of Life soundtrack is out now digitally and on CD Oct. 27.)

“Musically they’re different but together they came together to form the fabric of the music of the whole film,” says the Argentine-born Santaolalla, who won Oscars for best score for Babel and Brokeback Mountain. He also connected with Manolo’s journey: Like Manolo’s family in the movie, his own family wasn’t always happy with his desire to be a musician.

Director Jorge R. Gutierrez‘s, The Book of Life has themes of redemption and the journey to find one’s true calling.  The film is one of the first mainstream films to feature Dia de los Muertos. Diego Luna also connected with the film in a very personal way. Born in Mexico City, the actor lost his mother to a car accident when he was only 2, and the observance has been key for him to focus on remembering someone, rather than agonizing over the loss.

“I did save many years of therapy because of this celebration,” Luna says. He now celebrates the day with his son Jeronimo, 6, and daughter Fiona, 4, “so they understand where they come from and what had to happen for me to be here and whom I owe my life to. They didn’t get to meet their grandmother but they definitely know who she was.”

quotes from Brian Truitt, USA TODAY — Book of Life Original Songs

Rating: This is a children’s film but with adult themes, I choose Sangria–red as blood but sweet with fruit.  4 Sangrias (out of 5)

Bechdel Rating:  Maria is a Mexican feminist and it’s HER rallying cry that brings the village together to combat evil.  Otherwise, the film would have a low rating with it’s focus on marriage and romance.

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