“The Book of Life” opens on the Mexican holiday, El Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, with two best friends competing for the love of one beautiful woman. The computer animation recalls the famous prints of Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, whose satirical depictions of Mexican bourgeoisie as decadent skeletons have been associated with the aforementioned Mexican holiday.

The Book of Life

B
20th Century Fox Animation

The style of the film’s story appears to channel Posada’s, as well as other Latin@ artists’ and authors’ (such as Gabriel García Márquez) magical realism. Two spirits (one good and the other evil) strike a bet concerning the outcome of the two best friends’ competition, and the one evil spirit proceeds to cheat — as evil spirits are prone to. What might be problematic for the film is how it appropriates Mexican and Latin@ culture for the purposes of the American cultural-consumerist event of Halloween.

In the trailer, at the first mention of “Day of the Dead,” the words “This Halloween” appear on screen. This begs the question: Does the film celebrate the Day of the Dead as a legitimate cultural event in its own right, or does the film disrespect this Mexican holiday by subordinating it to the celebration of American Halloween? (I suspect the latter.) To answer these questions more definitively, one would of course, have to see the film, which, just based on the trailer, I wouldn’t recommend unless these questions of possible cultural misappropriations compel you otherwise.

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