La Muerta rules over the joyful Land of the Remembered, while Xibalba rules over the Land of the Forgotten. He tries to convince La Muerta to change sides, but she is not interested. He proposes a wager. Observing the rivalry of two young boys (Manolo and Joaquin) over their friend Maria, each god chooses a boy as the one who will marry Maria.
La Muerta disguises herself as an old woman who asks if Manolo might give her a piece of bread. Instead he generously offers a full loaf. Xibalba tries the same thing, but Joaquin is not so giving. Maria is sent off by her father, returning years later. Sensing Maria is favoring Manolo, Xibalba tricks Manolo into giving up his life.
In the afterlife, Manolo discovers he has been duped and seeks the help of La Muerta.
The design of this film is remarkably charming. The framing device is that a museum tour guide is telling the story, and all the characters look like wooden puppets.
The Land of the Dead is a wonderfully bright and colorful world. The characters are full of charm. La Muerta is a kind and gentle, yet fearless goddess. Xibalba on the other hand is both scheming and yet friendly (he is voiced by Ron Perlman, whose performance is just a lot of fun). And while the story frames Manolo as a kind and generous artist and Joaquin as a cheerful braggart? Joaquin is not a villain. The story is pitting the two against each other, and it obviously favors Manolo as the man for Maria. But Joaquin is seen as simply misguided and in need of a lesson. The film has sympathy for him. And then there is Maria. She is not interested in belonging to anyone and regularly challenges her two friends. And there is Chuy the pig who makes a sound like a goat.
The music of the Book of Life blends American Pop music with latin flavors to great effect. But the highlight are the two original tunes I Love You To Much and the Apology Song.
The Book of Life is a charming fairy tale of love, loss and rebirth.