Review: The Book of Life

This past weekend, we went to see the newly released Book of Life. Yes, this is a mainstream movie with sound at a theatre. It happens sometimes! I was keen to see this because I was excited to see a celebration of Mexican culture and mythology. Plus it’s an animated film, which I also hold dearly in my heart. I liked the movie.

The basic story is about two men, one is a brave army guy and the other is a matador who really wants to be a musician. They are both in love with the same vivacious woman. Two Lords of Death (literally) decide to make a bet on who will win her heart, which will have impacts on how the underworld is run.I’m not sure it’s strictly adheres to Mexican stories but it feels in the spirit. Considering what there has been, it’s a nice change from European fairy tales and whatnot. I hope to see more movies about Mexican creatures and legends. Of course, I’m not sure how La Llorona would go down in a children’s film… (According to legend, she’s a weeping ghost who drowned her children in life. It’s a tale to tell to children to get them to behave).
But seriously, it’s a film about the importance of family, being true to one’s heart, and more. And I love the depiction of the underworlds or any other world. I always do. I love representations of the afterlife. Beetlejuice and Spirited Away are still my favorite movies after all these years.  I only wish they had spent more time there.
However, my qualm with the movie is that it did not pass the Bechdel test. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bechdel test, it was developed by Alison Bechdel in her comics. The basic rule is: does a movie have two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man? You can read about it here and why it is important. It’s surprising how many movies fail this test. And sadly, The Book of Life did in my opinion. You can make the argument that there storyteller talks to a group of girls and boys but that’s really stretching it. What makes this disappointing is that the movie is about this great fiercely independent woman. She is very much her own woman and knows what she wants. But the movie isn’t about her. It’s about the men who want to marry her. So boo.
However, don’t let that stop you from seeing the film. It’s still fun and it is about a different culture’s legends. So that’s awesome. Go see it! I’m sure it is in theaters for a few weeks.
That’s all!

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