The Book of Life

With All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, and the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) just around the corner, how about a film that deftly segues us from the spooky vibes of the Halloween season into the more cheerful tones of the holidays after?

The young boys Manolo and Joaquin are great friends, but both seek to earn the love of the girl Maria. Noticing the love triangle, the supernatural rulers of the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten strike a wager about who will ultimately win her hand. But they’ll have to wait a while to find out, as Maria is soon sent to study abroad.

Upon her return years later, Manolo and Joaquin are eager to win her hand. Joaquin has made a name for himself in the military, and can obviously protect Maria from bandits threatening to invade the town. Manolo, on the other hand, has trained as a bullfighter, but disappoints almost everyone when he refuses to kill a bull he has bested. Despite his father’s wishes, Manolo much prefers making music with his guitar, and Maria is impressed with his kind heart and romantic serenading.

But the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten is watching, and would hate to lose his wager. So he does a bit of meddling, sending a snake to bite and seemingly kill Maria. Devastated, Manolo lets the snake bite him too, hoping he’ll join Maria in the next life, only to discover too late that he’s been tricked. Now if he wants to reunite with Maria, he’ll have to journey through the lands of the dead and overcome his greatest fear.

The Book of Life manages to balance the profoundness of love, death, and remembrance with a lighthearted comedic tone that keeps the tale family friendly. The film mixes some recognizable tunes with a colorful and vibrant world while exploring themes of being true to oneself and letting love lead the way.

Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Rated PG
USCCB rating: A-II
83% on Rotten Tomatoes
IMDb Parents Guide