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THE BOOK OF LIFE is an entertaining animated movie that attempts to teach children about a Mexican holiday called Day of the Dead. The result is a syncretistic worldview with some Christian, moral values mixed in with paganism.
The movie opens with a school bus of rambunctious children arriving at a museum for a field trip. Mary Beth greets them at the entrance and takes the children into a secret part of the museum to teach them about Mexican culture, specifically, the holiday of The Day of the Dead. Opening up a book called The Book of Life, Mary Beth goes on to tell the story described as the journey of Manolo Sanchez.
Manolo is a young boy with dreams of being a musician, but his family’s legacy has always been bullfighting. Manolo is also in love with Maria, a beautiful young girl, but he must fight for her love with the strong, courageous Joaquin. Maria is sent away to a convent school to be raised by nuns, and the two boys vow to wait for her return.
Two spirits, La Muerte and Xibalba, make a bet on which boy Maria will choose. If Maria falls for Manolo, Xibalba, a ruthless and mean spirit won’t be allowed to meddle in the dealings of men. If Maria chooses Joaquin, Xibalba will be allowed to leave the dreadful land of the forgotten, and instead rule the celebration-filled land of the remembered, both places spirits go after people die.
Years later, Manolo becomes quite the talented musician, even though his father still forces him to pursue bullfighting. Joaquin becomes a decorated soldier and is known for fighting off bandits and saving towns. When the now feisty and independent Maria comes back to their town, they both desperately try to win her heart. Worried he’ll lose his bet, Xibalba cheats and causes Manolo to be poisoned and sent to the land of the remembered. Once Manolo realizes what’s been done, he’ll do anything to be reunited with Maria. Can he return to her before Maria weds Joaquin and Xibalba takes total relinquished control?
THE BOOK OF LIFE is actually quite entertaining. The animation is unique and creative, and the humor is funny. The filmmakers help give life to this folktale by incorporating modern songs and including a culturally diverse cast of voice talent such as Channing Tatum, Ice Cube and Gabriel Iglesias, who bring hilarious moments to their roles.
There are some strong moral, redemptive messages in the movie as well, with one of the characters stating that, “To be a true hero, you have to be selfless.” This is exhibited in the characters who learn to love, defend and fight for one another, even to the point of sacrificing one’s life. That said, these positive messages are mitigated by some very serious occult elements and false theology on which the movie’s entire premise is based.
The Day of the Dead (which the Roman Catholic Church condemns) is a mixture of Spanish Catholic believes and indigenous occult paganism and false theology. As shown in the movie, it is commonly practiced on the Day of the Dead to pray to and remember dead ancestors. Those who are remembered go to the Land of the Remembered, a festive place. Those who are forgotten, go to the Land of the Forgotten, a dreadful place. As one character puts it, “As long as we remember, they are with us. If we don’t, they are truly gone.”
Not only is this false biblically, the ramifications of these false belief are anything but hopeful. Our afterlife isn’t dependent on those on earth. It lies solely on the free gift of eternal life available to each and every person who believes in Jesus Christ through the free gift of God’s Grace. Additional issues are raised with Maria’s feminist-like attitude (though her father is inconsiderate in more ways than one). There’s also a hypocritical message in regard to Manolo refusing to kill a bull in a bullfight, yet he’s more than willing to fight bandits and kill the bad guy. Sadly, despite some positive message, the dark pagan and false religious worldview requires an extreme caution for children.
THE BOOK OF LIFE is meant for families, but it warrants extreme caution.

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