The Book of Life (2014 film)

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The Book of Life
The Book of Life (2014 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jorge Gutierrez
Produced by Aaron Berger
Brad Booker
Guillermo del Toro
Carina Schulze[1]
Written by Jorge Gutierrez
Doug Langdale
Starring Diego Luna
Zoe Saldana
Channing Tatum
Ron Perlman
Christina Applegate
Ice Cube
Kate del Castillo
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
Edited by Ahren Shaw[1]
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 12, 2014 (2014-10-12) (Los Angeles premiere)
  • October 17, 2014 (2014-10-17) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million[3]
Box office $95.9 million[3]

The Book of Life is a 2014 American[4][5] 3D computer-animated adventure musical comedy film produced by Reel FX Creative Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Co-written and directed by Jorge Gutierrez, it was produced by Aaron Berger, Brad Booker, Guillermo del Toro and Carina Schulze.[1] The film stars the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum with supporting roles by Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Ron Perlman and Kate del Castillo. The film was theatrically released on October 17, 2014, to positive critical reception. It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature Film.


A museum chaperone named Mary Beth takes a group of troubled children on a tour and tells them about the famous legends and myths of Mexican folklore. She proceeds to tell them the story of the Mexican town of San Angel from the Book of Life, which holds every story in the world.

The spirits La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, appear at San Angel's Day of the Dead festival where they set up a wager after seeing two boys, Manolo and Joaquín, competing over a free-spirited girl named María. La Muerte bets that Manolo will marry María, while Xibalba bets on Joaquín. If La Muerte wins, Xibalba can no longer interfere in mortal affairs, but if Xibalba wins, he and La Muerte will switch domains. However, Xibalba cheats by giving Joaquin his Medal of Eternal Life, which renders the wearer invulnerable. Later, María sets free a herd of animals due to be slaughtered, much to the chagrin of her father General Posada, who sends Maria away to a private boarding school in Spain to learn to behave. While seeing her off, Manolo gives her a baby pig, Chuy, while she gives him a new guitar which has "Always play from the heart"[6] engraved on it.

Years pass as Manolo is trained by his father Carlos to become a skilled bullfighter while Joaquín becomes the town hero with the help of the Medal of Eternal Life. On the day that María returns, a celebration is held in town culminating in Manolo's first bullfight. During the fight, Manolo refuses to kill the bull, disappointing his father and the crowd but delighting María. That night, María learns her father is arranging her marriage to Joaquín so that the hero would stay and protect San Angel from the bandit Chakal (who previously owned the Medal himself), but she is conflicted by her feelings for Manolo. María and Manolo secretly meet and profess their love for each other, but they are interrupted when a snake, sent by Xibalba, bites María and seemingly kills her. Despondent, Manolo is tricked by Xibalba who offers him a way to see Maria again, as he summons the snake to inflict a double bite which kills Manolo.

Manolo travels to the Land of the Remembered where he reunites with his mother Carmen and his illustrious deceased family members. They travel to La Muerte's castle, but find it now occupied by Xibalba who explains the bet and that the snake only gave María enough venom to put her into a coma, but it gave Manolo enough to kill him. Once María awoke, she learned of Manolo's death and decides to accept Joaquín's proposal for the sake of the town. Manolo, Carmen, and Luis, Manolo's grandfather, travel to the Cave of Souls in order to reach the Land of the Forgotten. After accomplishing a pair of dangerous tasks, Manolo's pure heart allows him and his family to enter the Cave, where they meet the Candle Maker, who oversees the lives of everybody in the living world. After seeing that Manolo's story in the Book of Life is empty (due to Xibalba's meddling) and can be rewritten by Manolo's own actions, the Candle Maker takes the group to the Land of the Forgotten. There, Manolo finds La Muerte and exposes Xibalba's cheating. Xibalba appears and agrees to give Manolo life again if he can face his greatest fear, which Xibalba has manifested as every single bull his family ever fought. La Muerte convinces Xibalba to offer the wager by offering him both kingdoms should Manolo lose.

In the living world, Chakal learns that Joaquín has the Medal of Eternal Life and leads his army of bandits to San Angel on the day of the wedding. The bandit kills Carlos, who joins his family as they watch Manolo's challenge. Manolo apologizes to the grudge-filled spirit to forgive his family's transgressions and it dissolves peacefully away. Impressed, the deities grant Manolo his life back and send him and his family's spirits to the living world to defeat Chakal. After saving the town with Manolo by crushing Chakal under a church bell, Joaquín returns the medal to Xibalba, while Manolo and María wed happily as Xibalba and La Muerte reconcile.

At the end, as the now-enlightened children leave the museum, Mary Beth and a security guard introduced earlier reveal themselves as La Muerte and Xibalba, and the Candle Maker reminds everyone to write their own stories.



Jorge Gutierrez at a panel for the film at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2014

The Book of Life was originally optioned by DreamWorks Animation in 2007, but never went beyond development because of "creative differences".[10]

On February 21, 2012, Reel FX announced Guillermo del Toro would produce the film, originally titled Day of the Dead.[11] On December 12, 2012, it was announced that the film would be released on October 10, 2014, and that 20th Century Fox would distribute the film.[12] On October 15, 2013, it was announced that the film would be pushed back from October 10, 2014, to October 17, 2014.[13] On October 16, 2013, it was announced that Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna and Christina Applegate would be starring in the film.[9]

In February 2014, the film's director Jorge Gutierrez explained that he wanted the film to look exactly like the concept art in "The Art of" books, saying: "I saw every single one that comes out and my biggest heartbreak is that I see all this glorious art, and then the movie doesn't look like that! The mandate of this movie was: Our 'Art of' book is going to look exactly like the movie. And every artist poured their heart and soul into that idea."[14]


The film premiered in Los Angeles on October 12, 2014[15] and was released in the United States on October 17, 2014.[16]

Home media[edit]

The Book of Life was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on January 27, 2015.[17]


The Book of Life
Soundtrack album by Gustavo Santaolalla
Released September 26, 2014
Recorded 2014
Genre Film score
Length 37:34
Label Sony Masterworks
Gustavo Santaolalla film scores chronology
Wild Tales
The Book of Life

In April 2013, it was announced Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams would be writing songs for the film.[18] The soundtrack was released on September 26, 2014, on iTunes,[19] and was released on CD on October 27, 2014, by Sony Masterworks.[20]

No. Title Performer Length
1. "Live Life"   Jesse & Joy 3:05
2. "The Apology Song"   La Santa Cecilia 2:32
3. "No Matter Where You Are"   Us The Duo 2:58
4. "I Love You Too Much"   Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 2:35
5. "I Will Wait"   Diego Luna, Joe Matthews & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:55
6. "Más"   Kinky 4:20
7. "Cielito Lindo"   Plácido Domingo 0:25
8. "Creep"   Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:20
9. "Can't Help Falling in Love"   Diego Luna 0:52
10. "The Ecstasy of Gold"   Gustavo Santaolalla 2:05
11. "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"   Gabriel Iglesias & Gustavo Santaolalla 0:20
12. "Just a Friend"   Biz Markie & Cheech Marin 2:49
13. "El Aparato / Land of the Remembering"   Café Tacuba & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:46
14. "Visiting Mother"   Gustavo Santaolalla 1:43
15. "The Apology Song"   Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 2:52
16. "No Matter Where You Are"   Diego Luna & Zoe Saldana 1:37
17. "Te Amo y Más"   Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 2:36
18. "Si Puedes Perdonar"   Diego Luna & Gustavo Santaolalla 1:44
Total length:


Box office[edit]

North America

As of February 8, 2015 The Book of Life has grossed $50,123,408 in North America, and $45,223,847 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $95,347,255.[3] The Book of Life was released on October 17, 2014 in North America.[21][22] The film earned $300,000 from Thursday late night showings from 2,150 theatres[23][24] and $4.9 million on its opening day.[25][26] The film debuted at number three in its opening weekend earning $17,005,218 at an average of $5,537 per theatre behind Fury ($23.5 million) and Gone Girl ($17.8 million).[27][28][29][30] The film played 57% female and 54% under 25-years old. It played 59% under 10-years old while 31% of tickets sold were in 3D.[31]

Outside North America

In other territories, The Book of Life earned $8.58 million from 3,654 screens in 19 markets. The highest debuts came from Mexico ($3.84 million) and Brazil ($1.98 million).[29] In Mexico, the film was number two behind the local film Perfect Dictatorship.[32]

Critical reception[edit]

The Book of Life received positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 82%, based on 101 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus reads "The Book of Life '​s gorgeous animation is a treat, but it's a pity that its story lacks the same level of craft and detail that its thrilling visuals provide."[33] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 67 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[34]

Geoff Berkshire of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying "Repping a major step forward for Dallas-based Reel FX Animation Studios (after their anemic feature bow on last year’s Free Birds), the beautifully rendered CG animation brings an unusually warm and heartfelt quality to the high-tech medium and emerges as the film’s true calling card."[6] Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, saying "The Book of Life is a visually stunning effort that makes up for its formulaic storyline with an enchanting atmosphere that sweeps you into its fantastical world, or in this case, three worlds."[35] Simon Abrams of The Village Voice gave the film a negative review, saying "The Book of Life's hackneyed stock plot preaches tolerance while lamely reinforcing the status quo."[36] Marc Snetiker of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, saying "Overflowing with hyperactive charm and a spectacular sea of colors, it showcases some of the most breathtaking animation we've seen this decade."[37] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "The dizzying, intricate imagery is so beautiful, and the Latin-inspired songs catchy enough that the overall effect is often enchanting."[38] Sara Stewart of The New York Post gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Just in time for Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday comes this gloriously colorful animated musical, which almost (but not quite) makes up in visuals what it lacks in snappy dialogue."[39] Katie Rife of The A.V. Club gave the film a B-, saying "Ultimately, what drags The Book Of Life down is its insistence on trying to update an (original) folkloric story for a contemporary audience. In practice, this means adding some pop-cultural touches that only serve to take the viewer out of the fantastic setting."[40]

Michael Ordoña of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film three out of five stars, saying "The vibrant animated feature The Book of Life is a cheeky celebration of Mexican folklore with a solid cast, an irreverent sensibility and gorgeous visuals."[41] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film three out of five stars, saying "The Book of Life may use state-of-the-art animation, but it derives its strength from the wisdom of antiquity. It only looks new, but it's as old as life (and death) itself.[42] Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film four out of five stars, saying "A visually stunning, funny movie that trusts children to deal with subject matter that many films don't: specifically, death."[43] Frank Lovece of Newsday gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Funny without being frantic, seamlessly switching from dry humor to slapstick, it shows death as a part of life -- and, judging from a preview audience of very young tykes, does so in a gentle, delightful way."[44] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, saying "This often beautiful and too-often moribund, if exhaustingly frenetic, feature tends to be less energetic than the dead people waltzing through it."[45] Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, saying "The Book of Life juxtaposes overwrought visual imagery with an undernourished, familiar story - regrettable flaws in one of the few animated films to focus on Latino characters and the rich heritage of Mexican folk culture."[46] Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "Visually arresting but dramatically rote, The Book of Life at least introduces American kids to the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos and should score points with families looking for kid-friendly movies that reflect aspects of their Mexican cultural heritage."[47]

Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "The Book of Life is a flawed but intriguing new chapter in animation."[48] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "The Book of Life moves breezily from one scene to the next, keeping the pace brisk and rarely skipping a beat."[49] Laura Emerick of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Whether en ingles o en espanol, The Book of Life is a delight. In an animated universe cluttered with kung-fu pandas, ice princesses and video-game heroes, Gutierrez and del Toro have conjured up an original vision."[50] Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve gave the film three and a half stars out of five, saying "It’s all flawed, and distracted, and conceptually messy, prioritizing color over common sense and energy over consistency. But as an afternoon’s diversion for a handful of misbehaving kids—both within the movie, and within the movie theater—it’s authentically winning."[51] Michael Ordona of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a positive review, saying "There are no great surprises, no shocking reveals (except to the characters themselves). But there’s so much to appreciate along the way that it’s a real page-turner."[41] Kenji Fujishima of Slant Magazine gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Jorge R. Gutierrez subsumes the film's darker themes in a relentlessly busy farrago of predictable kids'-movie tropes and annoying attempts at hipness."[52] Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader gave the film a negative review, saying "This Pixar knockoff from 20th Century Fox is more imaginative than most, though like far too many of them, it's undone by a surfeit of glib one-liners and pop culture references."[53]


List of Awards and Nominations
Year Award Category Recipients and nominees Results
2014 42nd Annual Annie Awards[54] Best Animated Feature The Book of Life Nominated
Animated Effects in an Animated Production Augusto Schillaci, Erich Turner, Bill Konersman, Chris Rasch, Joseph Burnette Nominated
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Paul Sullivan, Sandra Equihua, Jorge R. Gutierrez Won
Directing in an Animated Feature Production Jorge R. Gutierrez Nominated
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Simon Varela & Paul Sullivan Nominated
2014 72nd Golden Globe Awards Best Animated Feature Film The Book of Life Nominated
Producers Guild of America Best Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures Guillermo del Toro and Brad Booker Nominated


Director Jorge Gutierrez revealed in an interview that one of the ideas for the next chapter in the story involves Joaquin and his relationship with his father. "I had always imagined the first movie to be about Manolo, the second to be about Joaquín and the third one to be about Maria...I've always conceived it as a trilogy."[55]


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External links[edit]