Review: Book of Life


The Book of Life is an animated folklore movie brimming with magic, beautiful animations, and character. During a school trip, a museum docent recounts a folklore to some rowdy modern day children. Even so, the magic of the folklore draws them in as they learn about honor, duty, mortality, bull fighting, consequences, and being a hero.


There is a legend of an epic bet. A lover’s quarrel between Xibaba (voiced by Ron Perlman) the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten and La Muerte (voiced by Kate del Castillo)  the ruler of the Land of the Remembrance ends up with a wager . It all depends on a conflict as old as time: Two boys in love with the same girl. Three children are chosen to decide the outcome of the wager. Xibaba chooses Joaquin, a boy who values strength and power as he lives under the shadow of his fallen brave father. La Muerte chooses Manolo, a romantic boy who just wants to play his guitar but has to follow his family’s heritages as a bull fighter. Joaquin and Manolo are best friends but are also both in love with the town’s gem, Maria. The wager is then set, whichever boy wins the heart of Maria, that deity will get to rule over the Land of the Remembrance.



The feature is co-produced and directed by Jorge Gutierrez (creator of El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera on Nickelodeon). The film is also co-produced by Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy).


The animated film is a visual treat with a great folklore to follow. The story uses the heritage of Day of the Dead as a backdrop for the legend. It is more than just a movie about Day of the Dead. It is not just a movie about a love triangle. It is about living in our parents’ shadows, respecting and acknowledging family values, but knowing that you need to forge your own story. Parents can make mistakes even with the best intentions. What made this even bigger than just a children’s movie is the idea that the world doesn’t revolve around you. What you do can have consequences.



Overall the movie is great for everyone. It is colorful, whimsey and full of humor that children and adults can enjoy. There are lessons and ideas that can offer many talking points across the board for all cultures. This is a movie that is accessible for everyone across the board. For no matter which culture you grow up, family is strong force that can help you grow.

With any folklore, there has to be a sense of danger to make the lesson within cement into your mind. The Land of Remembrance sounds fantastic. Everything is brighter and is pretty much the same as if they are living.  The catch is if they are forgotten, then they go to the Land of the Forgotten where eventually they blow away to dust. This small town sustains the memories of those who traveled to the Land of  Remembrance. if the whole town succumbs to attack from the bandits, then no one would remember anyone and they would all be dust! This makes Manolo’s quest even more scary. So much weighs on this and becomes a bigger story than a man trying to be reunited with his love; it upgrades into a quest.

Maria was not a damsel and stands her ground. From a young child, she is rebellious and headstrong in her decisions. This doesn’t always yield the best results, but that fortitude stays on through adulthood. Even as a young woman deciding between two good candidates, she holds fast to her ideals. For a love triangle, this is a pretty tough one to decide. In the greater context, her decision is predictable. If Xibaba had not cheated, would Joaquin have even been a contender? Would Manolo have still end up as a strong, confident warrior with  a great mustache? Most likely not since he fell for Xibaba’s tricks so easily.


There is a point in the movie where she gives a rallying cry for the villagers to stand tall and fight against the bandits. It made a great epic scene but logically you should run and barricade. That is dangerous group versus a gentle town. Your rallying them to their death.  For a woman who had a European education, did they ignore teachings of war tactics with all those study of martial arts and fencing?

There is an awkward urban flair insert from the Candle Maker (voiced by Ice Cube). It was really award to watch and very out of place. As a Candle Maker, it seemed to demean his epic role. He creates representations of life with the use of candles.That is such a huge and powerful role yet he just seems like this loveable goof. I would have loved to have seen a more intimidating character with Ice Cubes voice.

Plus the pop music with Mexican flair would be a treat for young and old. If you’re a huge view of Youtube as much as I am, then you will instantly recognize the end credit song.

Everyone should check out this movie. It’s fun, entertaining, and a great addition to the animated films out there.

Book of Life comes in theaters everywhere on October 17, 2014 from 20th Century Fox Animation


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