When thinking about some of the critically acclaimed movies to highlight for Hispanic Heritage Month, "The Book of Life" was one of the first films to come to mind. It's rich with culture and centers upon the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, otherwise known as the Day of the Dead. The Guillermo del Toro production earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2015 Golden Globes. It features the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Ron Perlman, and Kate del Castillo. "The Book of Life" earned nearly double its $50 million budget and sits as a worthy addition to Hispanic Heritage Month must-see movies.
The animated flick starts off with a museum tour guide taking a group of misbehaving kids on a secret tour. She introduces their young minds to a massive golden book known as the Book of Life. They open up the historic book and the guide begins reading to the kids the story of a Mexican town called San Angel. Then the story truly begins.
The tale at its core is one of love, friendship, and honor. A passionate triangle forms between three childhood friends, Maria, Manolo, and Joaquin. Interested in their new dynamic, the higher powers begin betting on who will end up with who. As you might expect, things get very complicated. The higher powers are the rulers of the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten. And when the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten realizes that he may lose this wager, he takes matters into his own hands.
Unfairly, he sends his snake to bite and kill Manolo. Instead, Maria saves him, and the snake bites her. Afterwards, he is blamed for her death. Manolo is executed and sent to Land of the Remembered where he finds out that Maria didn't actually die. So, he must find a way back to the living to reunite with Maria. Otherwise, Joaquin will become Maria's husband instead.
Hispanic Heritage Month Connections
"The Book of Life" breathes life into this sacred holiday Día de los Muertos and does so with colorful and vibrant animation. It shows the many styles and traditions that coincide with the holiday. And it teaches some valuable lessons about life and death. It teaches that our loved ones are always there as long as we never forget them. As long as we keep their memory in our hearts, they will always exist in some capacity.
We see this journey of a man who goes through many stages of life. From having a normal one to being executed and sent to the Land of the Remembered. And then eventually, he reaches the Land of the Forgotten. But if we look at his journey through more of a metaphorical lens, there are cultural and emotional insights we glean from Manolo's expedition into the afterlife.
Why You Should See It
For one, it's a great film that almost won a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards for Best Animated Feature. Another is to witness the breathtaking animation, especially with regards to the celebration of the particular holiday. If you're a bit unfamiliar with it, the film will educate you on how and why it's celebrated. And most importantly, it shows in a moving way that love really can conquer all. Whether it's for a friend or a significant other, or a family member, or someone who is no longer alive, if it's genuine, it always prevails.
Be sure to catch "The Book of Life," currently available to stream on Disney+.
Did You Know
Director Jorge R. Gutierrez spent over 14 years trying to get this movie made. The idea was originally born in 2001 from his CalArts experimental animation thesis titled "Carmelo." The short won him the 2001 Student Emmy Award. And it played at the Cannes Film Festival. After he graduated from school, he pitched all the major studios on a feature, and was rejected by them all. After he and his wife made the popular cartoon "El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera" for Nickelodeon, the major studios reached back out to revisit his idea.
Jesse is a writer and content manager for Noovie. When he's not working, he's on the beach playing volleyball.