I know, not Disney. But “What Executive Producer Guillermo Del Toro Teaches My Kids” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

The Book of Life came out about a month ago to reviews leaning towards the positive side. Overall, I thought it was great. Maybe not ‘instant classic’ great, and maybe not even ‘buy and put on the Plex Server‘ great, but it was unique and fun, and worth the fortune I spent on concessions to take the kids out for an evening with dad. Beyond the interesting (though occasionally disturbing) animation and simple plot, The Book of Life touched on lessons in a way that the typical children’s flicks do not. Well, mostly the last lesson. I’ll keep you in suspense with several other (good and bad) lessons first.

Bonus: There’s an actual book in it

What I Think It Teaches My Kids

Lesson 1: Sexism isn’t cool, or whatever

Let’s start with the bad before getting into the good. I have a bit of a dilemma with movies aimed at kids based on historical topics–how do you deal with the cultural norms now deemed unacceptable?

In modern day United States, we know sexism is bad. In Mexico a couple hundred years ago, they didn’t share that point of view (and considering that they still need PSAs such as Reily’s ‘Pegale a la Pared‘ about how you should hit walls instead of women, they might still have some work to do).

In The Book of Life, every single guy at some point is a bit sexist. There’s even one line where Maria, the female protagonist, asks if a woman’s place is taking care of a man’s every whim, and every guy in the room nods his head in fervent agreement. It’s played off as a joke, but I felt a bit awkward.

The point, though, is that the women in the movie are all very strong, and that (at least some of) the men redeem themselves. I’d say there isn’t enough bad here to outweigh the good, and you could tell that the filmmakers were trying to address sexism as wrong without pretending like it didn’t exist. But I could see how a few people could come through parts of the movie feeling a bit icky. Also, my kids could easily miss the subtlety they use to address it.

Lesson 2: Women are suckers for the right music

Piggy-backing on the first point, it seemed a bit like Maria fell in love with Manolo simply because he had a great voice and sang the right songs. If this encourages my son to learn to play the guitar, I don’t have a problem with it. If it encourages my daughter to fall in love with a musician, this movie deserves to be burned along with everyone involved in its creation.

Lesson 3: Being a musician will frustrate your parents, but don’t listen to them

I’m tempted edit this lesson out of the movie if my kids ever watch it again.

Lesson 4: Yay, PETA. Even if it starves your entire village

The kids, thankfully, didn’t seem to notice this one. Maria wants to save all the animals. Considering that forcing everyone to be vegetarians back then would likely have led to serious starvation, it seems like a silly thing to do. If this lesson tries to stick with my kids, it’s sessions with Ron Swanson for the foreseeable future.

Lesson 5: Mexico is awesome

We need more movies here about Mexico that don’t treat it like some deep black hole that exists only to spew out drugs and evil illegal immigrants. This one is a good start.

Lesson 6: Death’s not the end

Rather than content themselves with unexplained missing family members, many recent children’s movies include death scenes to add emotion and explain for why Mom and/or Dad won’t be coming home for dinner tonight. How to Train Your Dragon 2? Death by a friend. Big Hero 6? Death by fire (plus some unexplained ones). Walking with Dinosaurs? Death by fire (again. That’s a popular one). Frozen? Drowning. I could go on and on, but those are the most recent ones that come to mind.

I applaud filmmakers addressing death with our children. Modern medicine, thankfully, has made death a less common experience. I remember talking to a co-worker whose children were struggling with their grandmother death. Even though her kids were in their twenties, this death was the first one where they were close to the person who died.

What I love about The Book of Life is it shows death is not The End, just an end.

The Book of Life revolves around The Day of the Dead, a holiday clearly designed by people intimately familiar with death. I can think of few things as beautiful as a day for friends and family to gather together and celebrate the life, and loss, of a loved one, and cheer them on as they move to new adventures on the other side.

Seeing that on screen is a great lesson for my kids. Since they’ve lost a brother, it’s the kind of celebration that I hope they can do.

This, ultimately, is why I loved the movie. There were many flaws, but they were transcended by the celebration of death and family, even of those members who are no longer with us.

What My Kids Actually Learned From The Movie

Finley (son, 4 yrs old): If Dad takes you to the movies without Mom, he’ll buy you an Icee AND a soda if you make a scene about it.

Kella (daughter, 3 yrs old): The theater’s arcade is way more fun than the actual movie.

(Don’t miss the other Disney Lessons, which will be posted on the intro page as they’re written)