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'Book of Life' showcases Mormon Italian comedian Marco Lui

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 1 2011 6:30 a.m. MST

OREM, Utah — "The Book of Life" is a film worth seeing — if only as a showcase for Italian filmmaker Marco Lui's impressive talents as a mime, magician, comedian and actor.

Screened last week at the LDS Film Festival, the film is beautifully shot and well crafted.

The story is a simple and somewhat familiar one if you've seen classic LDS films like "Saturday's Warrior." Lui is in heaven awaiting his turn to get a physical body and excited about the possibilities.

He meets Chiara and starts leaving her a daisy every day. He doesn't want to be gone long, so he cheers when he's told his journey on earth will be short. While on earth, he's a teacher — and interested once again in making Chiara laugh, which he can do quite easily.

He's also good at making the children in his schoolroom laugh and helping them learn lessons about Christ's life, the value in having a physical body and why earth life matters. He couldn't teach these sorts of lessons in today's public schools, but shared in the context of the film, they are very effective.

The relationships are real, and a number of comic moments keep the movie entertaining.

As Lui continues to be funny wherever he goes and in whatever he does, he finally drives his girlfriend away with his constant need to be goofy. At that point, the movie takes a bittersweet turn.

Lui is likable and funny — an Italian version of Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. His supporting cast does a good job as well, especially Sarah Colombini as Chiara and Alice Risolino as a young student.

The Italian children in the film are cute and allowed to radiate a warmth and charm. The effective narration feels like an homage to the "Princess Bride," and the music permeates without distracting. The scenery is gorgeous.

The Italian subtitles are a little distracting, and some of the scenes move much more slowly than most American audiences would prefer. The ending is also a little off when it comes to LDS doctrine about eternal relationships and how they come about.

But this is still a choice offering.

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