All my life, I've loved animated films: Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, etc. So when I saw a preview for The Book Of Life, I knew I had to check it out for myself. And I was not disappointed.
The story centers around the culture, tradition, and mythology of the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. In the beginning of the film, the celebration is in full swing, and two bored underworld deities--one good (La Muerte), one evil (Xibalba)--make a high-stakes wager involving the fate of three young village children: Manolo, Joaquin, and Maria. The bet is which of the boys will marry Maria. Each diety picks a champion and sets about to help that boy win. Joaquin receives a special token from the diabolical Xibalba that gives him super strength and makes him impervious to harm while Manolo has the protection of the kindly La Muerte. All is going well until the three friends get into some trouble and Maria, who started the mess, is sent away to a far-off convent to learn to be a proper lady.
Years later, the friends have grown up. Joaquin has become a decorated military hero, just like his father before him. Manolo is now a reluctant bullfighter (and not a very good one), but his true calling is music, a "hobby" frowned upon by his champion bullfighter father.
Then comes word that Maria will return, and the wager picks up again--only this time more heated. The young men naturally fall in love with Maria, who has grown into a beautiful woman, and each tries to win her hand. But Maria isn't easily impressed as some girls by boasts of strength and achievement. She sees through Joaquin's bravado, but just when she begins to fall for Manolo, Xibalba steps in and tricks Manolo into going into the Land of the Dead, where he will be trapped forever unless he can find a way back.
Manolo accomplishes this (with the help of his deceased family members and La Muerte) and returns just in time to save his town and (rightfully) win the girl.
And keep an eye out for the twist at the end. Maybe you can guess it?
I adored this gorgeously-animated film about family, friendship, true love, and following your heart. The Book of Life can currently be found in the "New" section of the Teen Movie Collection. I highly recommend it! --AJB