‘The Book of Life’ Review


Valentina Franco, News Editor

Guillermo Del Toro and Jorge Gutierrez’s animated masterpiece, The Book of Life, brings feminist undertones, animal compassion, Hispanic representation and Mexican culture to the big screens of The United States.

The plot centers around the three main characters; Manolo Sanchez, voiced by Diego Luna, Maria, voiced by Zoe Saldana, and Joaquin, voiced by Channing Tatum. The conflict begins as Manolo and Joaquin are set to fight for the love of Maria, but the twists and turns of this animated movie begin as ‘La Muerte’ and ‘Xibalba’ bet on which of the two leading male characters ends up marrying Maria.

‘La Muerte’, voiced by Kate del Castillo, who bet on Manolo, is the queen of the ‘Land of the Remembrance’, a land where all the souls who are still remembered are and she alludes to the sugar skulls common in the celebrations of the ‘Day of the Dead’ in Mexico. ‘Xibalba’, voiced by Ron Perlman, who bet on Joaquin, is the ruler of the ‘The Land of the Forgotten’, which is, in turn, the land where all the souls who have been forgotten lay.

The plot develops as Manolo demolishes the idea of masculinity by following his love for music and straying away from the Sanchez lineage of bullfighting, due to his belief of it being a cruel and unnecessary sport. Joaquin, on the other hand, follows his deceased father’s steps and becomes a successful soldier who fights for the city of San Angel, but his success is due to a special gift ‘Xibalba’ gave him to in order to cheat in his bet with ‘La Muerte’

Maria is one of the many strong female leads who denies marriage and openly denies the idea of wives doing menial housework for their husbands, rallies up the whole town to defeat the attackers, shows both physical and mental superiority throughout the film, and even changes the matrimonial tradition of ‘you may now kiss the bride’ to ‘you may now kiss the husband.’ Other strong female roles include twins who fought and won in the revolutionary war, and ‘La Muerte’ who shows kindness as well as iron fisted leadership abilities.

The plot unravels in a beautiful array of folk art, Mexican traditions, liberal ideas of feminism and gender equality, copious amounts of ethnic representation, and even includes renditions of famous songs such as ‘Creep’ and ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ in traditional Spanish guitars. The characters are lovable, relatable and beautifully animated. The mostly Latino cast–  Zoe Saldana of Puerto Rican descendant, Diego Luna and Kate del Castillo who are both Mexican, the inclusion of voice actors of color, as well as the director and producers being Hispanic– show the great representation this will give the children of minority groups who will go watch this movie. The inclusion of strong females, and males who proudly wear the social stigma of ‘weakness’ make strides to erase the social norms put forth on both genders.

The Book of Life hits many emotional notes by having themes of remembrance of deceased family members, love not easily attained, parental expectation and family acceptance.