The gods bet on the outcome of a love triangle, kicking off an incredible adventure through the lands of the living, and the dead.
Firstly, this film isn't directed by Guilermo del Toro - though you would be forgiven for thinking it was. It's actually the work of writer/animator Jorge Gutierrez and marks his feature filmmaking debut after working on characters like Many Rivera.
More rumour control, this also isn't the film it pretends to be.
The promos for The Book of Life set it up as a fantastical tale where a man braves the land of the dead to save the woman he loves. In actual fact, all of that dead world stuff happens in short order in the last 30 minutes and sequence of events is very different indeed.
So it was already a little tough to get to grips with what The Book of Life actually is, and that's not helped massively by not only a framing narrative involving irritating children but also at least 15 minutes of exposition about the finer details of Mexican mythology.
All told, that leaves us with little enough time to establish characters, skip a couple of decades and get to the meat of the matter. So it's a testament to the work of everyone involved that when the film finally gets up to speed its actually a bit of a charmer. The humour has a fun, off-kilter (del Toro) edge and the treatment of female characters puts most modern movies to shame.
The love triangle is decently-played by the trio of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldanaand Channing Tatum - even if the ending is never actually in doubt and Gutierrez throws in a mixture of fanciful action scenes, silly characters and slightly more grown up material so that everything should be at least partly entertained.
There are some naff notes along the way, sometimes literally in the use of strange alternative versions of popular songs. Some almost work (like Creep) but most do not and when the film tries to conjure up original music its almost painful to listen to. The animation is also a little lacking in detail and verve (coming from mostly DTV house Reel FX), though the excursion to the land of the dead is full of imagination and the character models are quirkily crafted.
The Book of Life is a slightly strange film which mostly gets by on a kind of infectious energy. The young sorts in my screening seemed to be having a whale of a time with the zany images and gags and everything else is likely to keep all comers engaged - bar the occasional dud note.