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The Book of Life Movie Review

Reviewed by on Oct 17, 2014
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld reviews “The Book of Life”, the colorful animated fantasy adventure centering on relationships, fighting for our dreams and remembering those who have passed on with love and celebration.

By: Lynn Barker

As kids, Manolo (voice of Diego Luna) and Joaquin (voice of Channing Tatum) were best buds with feisty Maria (voice of Zoe Saldana) but, as they grew, a love triangle developed as both young men decided to win and marry Maria. Of course the expectations of their over-achieving parents make life hard and things get complicated when the ultimate evil bandito and his gang decide to wreck and take over their village.

Joaquin, Maria and ManoloJoaquin, Maria and ManoloCourtesy of 20th Century Fox


A few out of control school kids are taken to a museum where a hot museum guide (voiced by Christina Applegale) leads them to a very special wing and tells them the story of the Day of the Dead; the Latino remembrance day for those loved ones who have passed on. They are told about little Maria, Joaquin and Manolo, buddies until both boys decide they’ll grow up and marry Maria.

Maria (Zoe Saldana) listens to Manolo's musicMaria (Zoe Saldana) listens to Manolo's musicCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Story Goes

Ruling over the Land of the Remembered, is gorgeous La Muerte (Kate del Castillo). Her husband Xibalba (voice of Ron Perlman) is ruler of the sad Land of the Forgotten. He wants to switch kingdoms so he bets La Muerte that selfish tough guy Joaquin will win Maria’s heart. La Muerte picks Manolo, who comes from a family of bullfighters but would much rather play his guitar and sing.

Joaquin impresses adoring fansJoaquin impresses adoring fansCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

He Cheats!

To make sure Joaquin wins, Xibalba gives him a magical medal that bestows super strength, courage and even eternal life upon its wearer. As he grows, Joaquin becomes a legendary soldier and Manolo secretly pursues his love of music all while bullfighting to please his father… but he doesn’t believe in killing the bull. Maria, who has been sent off to school abroad, returns.

Manolo in the bull fight ringManolo in the bull fight ringCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Threats and Rescues

The guys continue to court Maria and she is leaning strongly toward good-hearted Manolo but her dad wants her to marry Joaquin so he will save the town from the evil bandito Chacal who is attacking. Seeing that he is losing the bet, Xibalba plays a horrible trick on Manolo to send him to the underworld while Joaquin wins Maria. In the Land of the Remembered, Manolo reunites with the spirits of his dead family and, together, they join with The Candle Maker (Ice Cube) to right wrongs, rescue the town and make sure that Manolo finally wins Maria.

Manolo sings for MariaManolo sings for MariaCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Wrapping Up

There is a whole lot going on story-wise in The Book of Life and the tale bogs down a bit in the middle, ending with the usual big battle of good vs evil. However, with a lot of colorful, creative, charming visuals, entertaining characters, some fun humor and relatable, universal themes dealing with relationships and personal development that we can all take to heart, the film succeeds.

The Day of the Dead cultural references might be way more relevant to Latinos who celebrate or at least know about the holiday but the message is for everyone, “As long as loved ones are remembered, they never really die”. For those of you who thought Day of the Dead was a scary, pagan ritual with decorated skeletons and evil ghosts, The Book of Life straightens that mistake out in detail. It is simply a day to remember our departed loved ones and surround ourselves with things they loved in life; favorite music, food, pictures etc.  What’s scary about that?

Manolo with his motherManolo with his motherCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

Voice actors do a great job. Channing Tatum is especially a hoot as the vain, proud Joaquin. Some classic songs like “Fools Rush In” are used to comic effect and new tunes by Gustavo Santaolalla (one is sung by lead voice actors Zoe Saldana and Diego Luna) are pleasant but there is nothing nearly as memorable as Frozen’s “Let It Go”.

Manolo waits for MariaManolo waits for Maria

Although there is nothing earthshakingly original in the tale, it will hold your interest and the eye-popping in 3-D film leaves us with a very worthy message; Remember the past and respect departed and living loved ones but also write your own life story and that is definitely worthy of a trip to the cinema. We go 4 stars.

The Book of Life Movie Rating: 4

The Book of Life PosterThe Book of Life PosterCourtesy of 20th Century Fox

The Book of Life is in theaters now!