With the recent release of the highly musical film The Book of Life, directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, we should take a look at some of the soundtrack’s interesting music choices.
If Gutierrez did something right, it was recruit OSCAR Award winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla to score the Day of the Dead themed film.
Santaolalla’s previous works include Brokeback Mountain, Babel, August: Osage County and the CW’s Jane the Virgin.
As expected, Santaolalla brought his usual skill to the two original tracks he penned alongside Paul Williams.— “I Love You Too Much,” a catchy serenade that the hunky bullfighting musician, Manolo (Diego Luna), sings to his free-spirited love interest Maria (Zoe Saldana), and the ballad “The Apology Song,” a touching number about forgiveness that Manolo sings to his bulls.
However, it was Gutierrez’s choice to put a Hispanic spin on pop hits such as Radiohead’s “Creep” and Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” that seem like a wasted opportunity.
The Book of Life is a movie that takes a deeper look into the Hispanic tradition of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). Santaolalla explained to The Hollywood Reporter “the identity of the movie is in these Mexican and Latin American subjects of life, death and the underworld.”
The soundtrack is watered down with Hispanic covers of Western songs, which detracts from the cultural identity of the movie. The film is an educational opportunity exploring cultural diversity and should, in our opinion, supplement the traditional narrative.
The covers could be seen as humorous, sure, especially when accompanying a family movie, but they could also be offensive. Music is often celebrated in Hispanic culture, and as such has produced more relatable artists, such as Chayanne or Luis Miguel.
There are also many Hispanic artists that would resonate with American audiences like Shakira or Enrique Iglesias, if artist familiarity was the director’s intention.
It seems like a wasted opportunity to not extrapolate on the educational theme throughout the film. Not to mention, awkward covers of such well-known songs make the music of the Hispanic culture seem like a joke.
Even with Santaolalla’s talents, the covers still feel inappropriate and insincere. Unfortunately, we feel that not honoring such an important cultural aspect hurts the integrity of the entire project. Our rating, D-.
Take a listen to the “Creep” cover from the movie’s soundtrack and see what you think: