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The Book of Life | 2014 | PG | - 2.3.1

In this animated feature a singing bullfighter (voiced by Diego Luna) in a Mexican village and the son of a dead hero (voiced by Channing Tatum) both want to marry the same woman (voiced by Zoe Saldana). For sport, the ruler of the colorful Land of the Remembered (voiced by Kate del Castillo) and the King of the Grey Land of the Forgotten (voiced by Ron Perlman) bet on which man will marry the woman by the festival of the Day of the Dead. Also with the voices of Christina Applegate, Danny Trejo and Ice Cube. Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez. Two lines of dialogue with pigs grunting have English subtitles. [1:28]

SEX/NUDITY 2 - A man and a woman (both are dolls) kiss briefly in three scenes. In another scene, they begin to kiss, but do not. After a wedding, the bride kisses the groom for several seconds. A man kisses a woman on the head. A woman kisses a male museum guard on the head and he becomes tongue-tied. A man kisses a woman on the forehead and she awakens from a trance. A male spirit king and a female spirit queen kiss twice and the second time fireworks go off in the sky.
 A man sings to a woman, "I love you too much." A man proposes to a woman and she accepts, but does not love him; later, she marries the first man and at the wedding, two women jump into the arms of the second man and smile.
 A woman doll faints when she sees a male wooden doll wearing military-style clothing with large shoulders, small waist, no buttocks and thin legs. Male dolls look at a female doll and the teeth fall out of the mouth of one. A wooden-doll mariachi sings, "If you want my body, let me know" under a window, then rips open his shirt to show a tattoo of his own face on what looks like a hairy wooden barrel.
 Several women are wooden dolls wearing long gowns with tiny waists, large hips and a bosom that looks to be one large, wooden bead under the clothing. A cartoon woman in a museum has a tiny waist and wears a miniskirt with a slit over one thigh.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 3 - A spirit king changes his walking stick into a hissing snake that bites a woman, puts her to sleep immediately and makes her appear dead; she later recovers and before she does, a male friend of hers shouts at the sky in despair and the king sends two snakes after the man, killing him with a deep sleep.
 In a hog market, a man sharpens two cleavers beside a sign showing three grimacing pig faces above boiling pots; a little girl takes a sharp sword and cuts the latches off all the pens, freeing the pigs causing a stampede; we see a huge glowing-eyed warthog join in and seeing it, wooden soldiers fall apart until the Mayor, who has a hook hand, shouts loudly at the soldiers and the girl who freed the pigs causing the girl to cry (the warthog's tusks get stuck into a wall and the Mayor sends the girl to Spain).
 Very short banditos with large noses, sharp teeth and large sombreros run into a village and steal chickens and jewelry; townsmen scream and run while nuns sing a somber note and pray until a man with a magic safety medal beats all the banditos (no blood) and saves the villagers; the banditos report to a giant bandit who is sharpening a long, wide rusty sword with a stone and he leads them back to the village where we see the giant is even larger and has more numerous sharp teeth, a dark face, glowing eyes and a very deep voice as he flicks away a human with a finger and the man lands on a pile of dirt with a thud (no blood).
 A spirit king challenges a male ghost to fight thousands of bulls all at once and it is agreed so the male ghost meets the bulls: all of them are gray skeletons and the man avoids them in rain and as dust whirls in large clouds, we hear that a ghost's father died in a battle and he appears beside his son, a woman appears next and says she died of cholesterol, a huge ghost bull charges into the ring (with red eyes and sharp teeth glowing and spikes shimmering on his bones and horns) and the ghost man falls once, but gets up as we see every one of the bull's bones catch fire; the bull charges, but the ghost man sings an apology song to it and to all bulls ever harmed in the ring, the fires dim into smoldering dust and the atoms of the bull's bones change into pink heart-shaped petals that float everywhere.
 A bullfighter holds a long sword out into the audience, but refuses to kill bulls, even when a bull determines to kill him; two regular bulls and a giant bull charge and get stuck in the bullfight ring walls by the horns, but are not seriously injured. Swords are used in battles among banditos and a giant bandit on one side and people and ancestral ghosts on the other; we see a lot of punching, flipping and slashing, and while people are knocked down, no one bleeds or dies. In a flashback, lighting strikes the silhouette of a bull dead in a practice session with a bullfighter. A statue of a soldier features the man on rearing horseback, brandishing a sword. Children play with short wooden swords, but no one suffers harm. Adult soldiers practice sword fights briefly without injury. Two female ghosts brandish long swords and say they won the Mexican Revolution. Two men slap at and push each other and a woman slices a sword down between them to make them stop (no injuries). A bullfighter states to a crowd that killing bulls is wrong and the crowd boos and throws things at him, hitting him in the head with a guitar from the stands (no blood or bruising is seen).
 A deceased singer-bullfighter appears in a beam of light with all his ancestors (because they can do so on the Day of the Dead) and villagers and returned ancestors fight banditos with punches, slaps and sword slashes that do not hit anyone, and no blood or death occurs, but the banditos are defeated and we see that men have fallen on both sides, but get back up while a giant bandit falls off a flat roof, climbs back up and tosses a grenade that explodes in a large puff of smoke, wrecking part of a building, which crumbles; the giant grabs the singing bullfighter and says he is taking him to the Land of the Forgotten, but when the smoke clears, the giant bandit is gone and the bullfighter is alive; one man is seen wearing a strip of cloth around his head to cover his apparently injured eye but we do not see the wound occur and we see no blood.
 A ghost man in the Land of the Remembered says, "It is a good day for doom" and takes his Mama and the talking head of his grandfather (a doll who fell apart) to a tall statue and guesses clues to open a way to the Cave of Souls; he outruns three large carved and glowing wooden balls in a maze and wins the game, he and his relatives jump into a waterfall and he screams but is safe on a ledge just over the ground in the second afterlife world; Mama summons Grandpa's body back and he says his arthritis returned with it (but he's a doll) and a woman spirit in the Land of the Forgotten screams loudly in anger at the male spirit in the other afterlife world and he appears and the female spirit and a male spirit both slap him loudly in the face and he admits that he cheated on a bet.
 Several ghost men argue about how many bulls to fight at once: one says that three is enough and that fighting only one bull makes the fighter a coward, another ghost brags, "Bullfighters first with death" and a woman says that that is why so many of them are in the afterlife. A man who fights three bulls at once in his career sings opera arias as he battles banditos bloodlessly and dances in the air.
 A woman returns from Spain and says that she studied fencing and Judo as she brandishes a sword and uses Judo on a few banditos, though no one is injured. A large man punches a smaller man out of a chair and off-screen. A woman gives a pep talk to villagers, who take up swords and pitchforks to fight banditos. A woman punches a tabletop and leaves what she says is a chauvinistic gathering. A trio of mariachi sings under a window until one is hit by a pot and the second is flattened by a large cactus in a pot (no blood or injuries; the second man wears the plant as a hat).
 Defeated banditos report to a giant bandit who is sharpening a long, wide rusty sword using a stone; we see him with larger and more numerous sharp teeth, a dark face, glowing eyes and a very deep voice; he follows to a village where he flicks away a human with a finger and the man lands on a pile of dirt with a thud (no blood).
 The film focuses on the Day of the Dead in Mexico, when the spirits of the deceased may visit Earth; it features intricate animation that includes many dark scenes as well as many colorful ones, along with many tiny skulls on clothing and musical instruments and in the irises of several characters; it also includes raging bulls in fighting rings, hissing snakes, a huge monster bull, and a giant monstrous bandit, both of the latter figures are shown to be as big as a city block. A female spirit and a male spirit, leaders of the two afterlife dimensions, change into other people; as themselves, she wears a giant sombrero with skulls and lit candles around it while he sports large wings, a green face/neck, a black-tarred lower face, red-skull eyes and hundreds of skulls in the "icky tar" material of his clothing, his buttons, etc. Many men (wooden dolls) have bulbous and wart-covered noses; some male faces look like Pablo Picasso's cubist paintings, with features all on one side or displaced around the facial area. A man in the sky has a yellow robe and a beard made of clouds, somewhat resembling a deity and he says that he is The Candle Maker, responsible for the thousands of lit candles in the afterlife that are the spirits of the departed; the candles dance and rotate in a column around the deity. A dead man awakens in the colorful Land of the Remembered and meets his dead ancestors who are macho bullfighters or revolution fighters (twin women wearing crossed ammo belts in Mexican style) and the oldest ancestor, a huge man, looks a lot and behaves a little like a gorilla in bullfighter's regalia; all the deceased in the land are white with black decorations of dots and curlicues.
 On the Day of the Dead, families light many candles and hold picnics on the graves, while mariachis entertain and the spirits of the ancestors look on and smile; two spirits, male and female, ask little boys for bread and the first gives his up immediately and freely, but the second takes a big bite out of his bread and accepts as payment the Medal of Everlasting Life. A museum guide says a bus full of kids looks like they are regularly in detention and another guard jumps out and scares them (they gasp).
 A large-toothed monster swallows a goat, leaving its skeleton intact and another goat defecates at least a dozen round nuggets in fear. A bird defecates a lot of white material onto a cactus that a boy tries to sell for food. In the Land of the Remembered, a large spirit spits out food and we see debris spray off-screen as he burps loudly. A lot of spitting takes place: A man at a gathering spits out his drink in surprise and the spray is visible, a ghost man spits on the ground and we see a small amount of white spittle, a man spits on the ground of a bullring and we see white spittle move to a point below the frame, two other men spit on that ground and we see no spit but hear "Ptui!" a giant bandit spits twice off-screen somewhere and we do not see spit but hear the " Ptui!" and a huge ghost ancestor spits off-screen to the ground and we here the "Ptui!" but see no spit. A girl gives a boy a guitar decorated with a skull and cross bones.


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LANGUAGE 1 - 1 possible mild scatological reference (at the sight of a giant living bull skeleton, a man shouts, "That's a lot of bull!"), 1 mild anatomical term, name-calling (crazy, loco, weirdo, icky, lazy sons, cowards, boy, Soldier boy, clown, bozos, fools, goofball, savage, bullfighter [very derogatory tone], son of a leper [leprous] donkey), stereotypical references to men, women, fathers, mothers. Catholics, nuns, spirits, Mexican bandits, war heroes, animal rights activists, bullfighters, musicians. exclamations (Carumba), 3 mild religious exclamations (Santa Chihuahua, Heaven Knows Your Name, Ave Maria).


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SUBSTANCE USE - Men and women sitting around banquet tables have goblets of unknown beverages that may be wines (no one drinks), and a mariachi singer says that he and his trio went to four bars already (twice) as he stumbles around and sways somewhat drunkenly.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - The Day of the Dead, death, resurrection, belief, ghosts, the spirit world, remembering ancestors, legends of Mexico, Catholicism, machismo, courtship customs, danger, failure, selflessness, redemption, animal cruelty, relationships, love, friendship, loyalty.

MESSAGE - Real heroes are unselfish and authentic and they write their own life stories.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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