Movie Review: The Book of Life


Paris Shepherd

The Book of Life is an animated film that explores the Mexican tradition of Dias de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead.

The illustrations in this film breathe life into the legend of Manolo Sanchez, the unsuspecting hero who has to find his way through magical worlds in order to rescue his true love and defend his village from Chakal and his band of pillagers.

The Book of Life is an animated film based around the Mexican tradition of celebrating Dia de los Muertos. Credit:

Maria, voiced by Zoe Saldana, has captured Manolo’s heart as well as Joaquin’s, another member of their trio. She serves as the ringleader and troublemaker of the group. She is sent away by her father and, as a result, break up the trio.

Although Maria leaves, Manolo and Joaquin grow up hoping to marry her when she returns. This love triangle continues throughout the movie and ensues a bet between La Muerte, who rules the Land of the Remembered and Xibalba, the ruler of the bleak Land of the Forgotten.

The wager is that Xibalba will exchange realms with La Muerte if Maria marries Joaquin, but if she marries Manola he can no longer meddle in mortal affairs. However, Xibalba cheats by giving Joaquin the medal of eternal life.

The animation transforms as the two boys grow up. Manolo becomes a renowned bullfighter, but his heart’s not in it. When he can’t bring himself to finish the bull and admits his love for music, he brings shame to his father.

In contrast, Joaquin becomes the hero of the little town of San Angel because of the medal that he conceals under his uniform. His desire to defeat Chakal attracts the attention of Maria’s father, who wants her to marry Joaquin so that the town with be saved. When Manolo realizes that Joaquin is a shoo-in for Maria’s hand in marriage, he makes one last attempt to change her mind. She agrees to meet him outside of San Angel at dawn, where he serenades her with a song from his heart. Fearful of losing, Xibalba tricks Manolo into thinking that Maria is dead and because of a broken heart, Manolo asks to join her.

With Manolo out of the way, Xibalba wins the bet, sends La Muerte to the Land of the Forgotten, and begins Manolo’s journey back to life. Along the way Manolo is reunited with his deceased relatives; all Sanchez bullfighters. He also meets the Candle Maker; the protector of the book of life. He helps Manolo get to La Muerte, who eventually gives him a second chance at life.



Immediately following his resurrection, Manolo joins in the fight against Chakal and with the help of his “undead” family, he defeats him. With the battle won, Maria’s father gives his blessing to Manolo and the two are married at once.

The Book of Life concluded with a twist that the audience did not see coming, thus creating a positive reaction from the audience by enhancing the film’s enjoyability.

The closing scene featured the Candle Maker, who reminded the audience to write their own stories.

Director Jorge Gutierrez captivated his audience through the uniqueness of this film, which caters to all age groups, through vibrant illustrations and comical accents voiced by Channing Tatum (Joaquin), Zoe Saldana (Maria), Diego Luna (Manolo), and Ron Perlman (Xibalba).  

What do you think?