The Book of Life (2014) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Book of Life (2014)



Critic Consensus: 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.

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Movie Info

THE BOOK OF LIFE, a vibrant fantasy-adventure, tells the legend of Manolo, a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical, mythical and wondrous worlds in order to rescue his one true love and defend his village. (c) Fox

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Diego Luna
as Manolo
Ice Cube
as Candle Maker
Ron Perlman
as Xibalba
Cheech Marin
as Pancho Rodriguez
Plácido Domingo
as Skeleton George
Hector Elizondo
as Carlos Sanchez
Ana de la Reguera
as Skeleton Carmen
Gabriel Iglesias
as Pepe Rodriguez
Ricardo Sanchez
as Pablo Rodriguez
Danny Trejo
as Skeleton Luis
Carlos Alazraqui
as General Posada
Elias Garza
as Young Joaquin
Genesis Ochoa
as Young Maria
Jorge R. Gutierrez
as Skeleton Carmelo
Kennedy Peil
as Sasha (As Kennedy 'KK' Peil)
Miguel Sandoval
as Land of the Remembered Captain
Grey DeLisle
as Grandma
Sandra Equihua
as Scardelita
Angélica María
as Sister Ana
Eric Bauza
as Father Domingo
Tonita Castro
as La Muerte as Old Woman
Troy Evans
as Old Man Hemingway
Guillermo del Toro
as Land of the Remembered Captain's Wife
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Critic Reviews for The Book of Life

All Critics (126) | Top Critics (45)

Though the plot gets a bit congested, the film remains far less predictable than most of its kind.

April 2, 2015 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

It's refreshingly sparky fare, boasting eye-catching design (wooden toys inspire CG magic), musical weirdness (Radiohead will never sound the same again) and proper laugh-out-loud jokes for young and old alike.

October 26, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Drawing on Mexican folklore and other Latin American traditions, Jorge R. Gutiérrez's version of death in his beautiful, witty 3D-animated debut The Book of Life is bursting with vibrant colours and magic -- a constantly expanding, neverending party.

October 24, 2014 | Full Review…

Fired up on Latin American myth, not afraid to ask children to engage with mortality, The Book of Life could work as a gateway drug to del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

October 24, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Gorgeous visuals, lively voice work and makes inventive use of Mexican history and culture - in particular, The Day of the Dead. Its actual storytelling is a little flat.

October 23, 2014 | Full Review…

Produced by Guillermo del Toro, the film has the baroque wackiness of his tastes and the artistry is magical.

October 23, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Book of Life

Great animation, but a strange story that's not very engaging.

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer


Damn this is so Mexican I half expected Robert Rodriguez to be the director. Indeed it is also no surprise to find out Guillermo del Toro was a producer on this movie although the entire project has that nice death obsessed Tim Burton-esque vibe to it much like 'Corpse Bride', you could almost say this was a Mexican version of a Tim Burton project. The book of life contains all the stories of the world and one such tale revolves around a small town in Mexico (year unknown but I'm guessing its in the past) on the Day of the Dead. The spirits of the dead La Muerte (ruler of the land of the remembered) and Xibalba (ruler of the land of forgotten) see two young boys competing for the attention of a young girl, they make a bet over which young boy will end up marrying the girl first. If La Muerte wins then Xibalba can no longer mess with mortals for fun and if Xibalba wins then he will rule the land of the remembered. The land of remembered being a fun colourful lively afterlife where its always party time, the land of forgotten being like a black and grey coloured Tim Burton vision...OK I promise to stop with the Tim Burton references. The plot is probably the weakest part of this movie as it really doesn't make much sense or have any real weight to it. These two ghostly spirits make this wager on the young children but I'm not really sure why they do this, or why they even care what these kids get up to in the future. Its also an odd bet because they will both have to wait many many years to see the outcome, and what happens if neither of them marry this girl? surely they could make another simpler wager. That is one half of the plot, the other is about the two boys who grow up into strong men and again compete to win the hand of their childhood girlfriend (Maria, seriously couldn't they have used a better and less stereotypical name). One of the lads (Manolo) becomes a bullfighter following his family tradition but is unsure of his fathers expectations and prefers to sing. He is the more well adjusted of the two, kind, generous and considerate. The other lad (Joaquin) becomes a well known military hero who protects the town but is a show off and narcissistic. All the while the pair are watched over by the two rulers of the underworld, you might ask what exactly all this has to do with the afterlife, well all that kicks off when Manolo gets killed in a trick by Xibalba. In a typically Romeo and Juliet fashion Manolo believes Maria to be dead after she is bitten by a snake sent guessed it, Xibalba. So Xibalba tricks him by offering a chance to see her again which of course would mean dying...which he doesn't quite work out in time. Hence Manolo is out of the picture and Xibalba can win his bet. So yeah we've seen this type of story line before, nothing wrong with that of course but its all pretty shallow stuff. This movie is all about the visuals...and what visuals! Honesty at the start I was a little put off by the design of the picture, the characters were very basic and weekday cartoon looking to me, clearly they were going for a different approach but first impressions were worrying. As we delve further into the story and reach Mexico again the character/landscape designs took a change but this time for the better. Now we are confronted by this oddly surreal blocky look which kinda resembles Lego men and figurines that have been carved out of wood. Well that's the main characters anyway, background characters are even more off the wall with outrageous facial designs and body structures that I can only think are somewhat along the lines of 'Ren & Stimpy'. On one hand grotesque but at the same time highly imaginative, the whole vibe feels very much like a continental animation to me. Anyone remember the PC videogame 'Grim Fandango'? well think along those lines too. The highlight is obviously the afterlife sequences where things really become bizarre and extremely visceral. This movie is all about Mexican folklore, Mexican myth and magic, Mexican, Latino, Spanish culture (if you hadn't already guessed) and this is where is explodes onto your screen. Up to this point the Day of the Dead was just a background theme but on arrival in the land of remembered its a full on mardi gras of colourfully epic proportions. The artistic style is still thoroughly absurd and crazy but it really does boggle your senses in a good way, its like...Beetlejuice in Mexico. Chock full of detail on every frame there has clearly been a lot of time, love and attention to create those tiny details and make it as accurate as possible. From an visually artistic point of view this movie is truly award winning, a breath of fresh air, smart and original. I can see some folk not adjusting to the look though, its definitely not gonna be for everyone. Alas the plot is a tad stale and predictable with its soppy notions sure but it is a kids film essentially, gotta remember that. I twisted in horror at the use of some modern pop songs that were used here and there, that really spoilt the atmosphere, but twas nice to hear Ennio Morricone's 'Ecstasy of Gold'. Always a problem these days, they have to include some ghastly pop music for the kids to relate to, ruins the dark ambience. The film really comes alive (no pun intended) after Manolo gets killed its as simple as that, up to then everything is bit meh to be honest. From there on its a vibrant hyperactive wacky-ass cartoon/animation that is a solid celebration of Mexican lore and tradition of which the young can learn from. At the end of the day there is nothing here that hasn't really been done before, but the fact its been created around a culture and heritage that hasn't really been explored fully on film before makes all the difference.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

Candle Maker: Today was a good day...of the dead. The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a widely loved kids film, when it comes to celebrating Halloween. If things go the way they should, The Book of Life is in a nice position to become the film that represents Dia de los Muertos for kids, let alone brings it further into mainstream prominence. Director Jorge Guiterrez and his team, including producer Guillermo del Toro, have created a stylish, animated, adventure-romance, which is full of life. It is a bit odd to point that last part out, given that the film celebrates the Day of the Dead, but then again, there is a lot of odd charm in this film that may be overstuffed with ideas, but is so lighthearted and fun, it is easy to look over some minor flaws, when it comes down to supporting a nice little animated film such as this. read the whole review at

Aaron Neuwirth
Aaron Neuwirth

Super Reviewer

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