95 minutes of animated PG fun. Of course, in keeping with today's trends, we have celebrity voices. In my personal opinion, professional voice actors would be a better choice, but who am I to second guess writer/director Jorge R. Gutierrez? (Guillermo del Toro is a producer.)
This is the classic love triangle which starts when the three children are fairly young, then it continues into adulthood. It is set in the classic Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), when families remember loved ones who have gone before.
We recognize the voices of:
- Zoë Saldana ("Guardians of the Galaxy") is Maria, the lovely young woman who resists getting married just to be married and she doesn't want to become a Flame of Perpetual Purity at the convent. She cares for both of the young men courting her.
- Diego Luna ("Casa de mi Padre") is our hero, Manolo, torn between his family obligations (bullfighting) and his heart's desire (music)...and of course, Maria! Plus, it's hard to fight bulls if you don't like killing.
- Channing Tatum ("Magic Mike") Joaquin, is the heartthrob who has a magic jewel which protects him from harm, thus he becomes a legendary soldier, unafraid because he can't be hurt...except maybe a broken heart if Maria choses Manolo...
- Ron Perlman ("Sons of Anarchy") brings his distinctive voice to Xibalba (you say it, I can't), the creature who places a bet on who he thinks Maria will marry.
- Kate del Castillo("Under the Same Moon") is La Muerte, the female counterpart to Xibalba. She bets against Xibalba.
- Ice Cube ("22 Jump Street") is The Candle Maker. His job is to explain our hero's new surroundings and teach him the rules.
- Placido Domingo ("Dora the Explorer") is Skeleton Jorge, the frustrated (dead) relative who had always wanted to sing opera. We are treated to bits and pieces of well-known arias.
We learn that Mexico is the center of the world (which made Seattle audiences snicker because we KNOW it's really Seattle!), we learn the traditions and the music, plus we see artwork and costumes that are typically Mexican. Children in the screening audience were NOT bored! I was amused by that little pig that always said "Maaa" instead of "Oink" and I liked that he tuned his guitar before he played it. Nice...