Submitted by Evan B
Manolo wins his life back, wins Maria’s heart, saves the town. and reestablishes his friendship with Joaquín. The romance between Xibalba and La Muerte is also rekindled and each regains control of their respective kingdoms.
Several kids are taking a tour of a museum in Mexico, led by tour guide Mary Beth (Christina Applegate). She explains that in Mexican lore, they believe in three deities relating to the Day of the Dead. Xibalba (Ron Perlman) who rules over the drab and depressing Land of the Forgotten, La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) who rules over the vibrant and exciting Land of the Remembered, and the Candle Maker (Ice Cube), who sets forth the destinies of mortals. On the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead, Xibalba and La Muerte are permitted to come to Earth. She then proceeds to tell the story of one such visit.
Though Xibalba and La Muerte are in love with each other, Xibalba has become jealous of La Muerte getting to rule over the Land of the Remembered. During one Day of the Dead celebration, they witness three young children at play. Joaquín is the son of a war hero that died protecting the town from a monstrous bandit named Chakal (Dan Navarro) and clearly wishes to emulate his father. Manolo Sánchez comes from a family of bullfighters, but he takes after his deceased mother in being more sensitive and interested in music. Maria is the governor’s daughter and despises society’s conventions for women. Xibalba makes a bet with La Muerte that if Joaquín wins Maria’s heart, he will get to preside over the Land of the Remembered. If Manolo wins her heart, Xibalba agrees not to interfere with the human world any longer. Before they leave, Xibalba gives Joaquín a medal that will protect him from all injury or harm. Soon after, Maria is sent away after the trio accidentally set loose an angry boar. During the boar’s rampage, Manolo and Joaquín both take action to defeat the boar, but Joaquín’s actions saved the life of the governor so he is feted as the sole hero and taken into the village’s army.
Many years pass and the kids are all grown up. Manolo (Diego Luna) is a wildly talented bullfighter, but he would rather be a musician and steadfastly refuses to kill any of the bulls he fights. Joaquín (Channing Tatum), with the medal’s powers, has become a decorated soldier and the hero of the village. Maria (Zoe Saldana) is finally returning from her boarding school. We learn she remains staunchly opposed to the role of women in the village as dutiful housewives.
To celebrate her return, Manolo has his first public bullfighting match. Though he is clearly a master bullfighter, he refuses to kill the bull and is derided by the town. Manolo’s dad tells him he has disgraced the Sánchez name. Both Joaquín and Manolo make romantic gestures towards Maria, but it is clear that she is smitten with Manolo. Joaquín threatens to leave the village if Maria doesn’t marry him (thus leaving it prey to Chakal). Xibalba realizes, however, that even this threat will not be enough for Maria to choose Joaquín over Manolo. He therefore sets a series of events in motion that tricks Manolo into believing that Maria has died (when in fact, she is simply in a coma). Manolo allows himself to be killed so he can be reunited with her in the afterlife. When Maria recovers from her coma and learns of Manolo’s death, she agrees to marry Joaquín for the sake of the village. Xibalba then takes over as ruler of the Land of the Remembered, having “won” the bet.
In death, Manolo is reunited with his family (most of whom died due to their reckless conduct in the bullfighting ring). He, his mother and his grandfather set out to the Land of the Forgotten to find La Muerte and apprise her of Xibalba’s deception. En route, they meet and befriend the Candle Maker who explains that, because Manolo has died, his destiny is no longer written (and he can make his own fortune). Meanwhile, Chakal learns that Joaquín has the medal of immortality (of which Chakal was a former owner) and he raises an army to attack the village. Manolo’s father dies trying to stop Chakal from reaching the village (and joins Manolo on his journey).
Eventually, Manolo and his family reach La Muerte. She calls Xibalba down to her and a new deal is made. If Manolo can defeat the spirits of all the bulls killed by the Sánchez clan over the years, he can return to life. If he loses, Xibalba gets to control both realms. Manolo is ultimately victorious when, through song, he apologizes to the spirits of the bulls and the bulls decide to no longer attack him. Manolo’s family are moved by this and finally acknowledge Manolo as a true, and the best, Sánchez. They are then allowed to return to Earth with a newly-living Manolo. Upon their return, they find Joaquín on the brink of defeat (his medal having been stripped from him by Chakal) and Maria being held hostage by Chakal. Manolo’s family and the three deities (all of whom are now firmly on Manolo’s side), fight the army. Joaquín and Manolo mend their relationship and launch a joint assault on Chakal himself.
They rescue Maria and recover the medal. Chakal, realizing he is defeated, prepares to blow himself up (and the village with it). Manolo forces Joaquín and Maria to safety while he goes to sacrifice himself to save the village. Chakal blows up, but Manolo is unharmed and successfully contained the blast. Joaquín had secretly placed the medal upon Manolo during the battle, deciding that it was past time to do something selfless. The day is saved, Maria and Manolo get married, and Xibalba apologizes for his actions and rekindles his romance with La Muerte.
As the kids leave the museum they discover that the tour guide Mary Beth was La Muerte in disguise and that one of the security guards is Xibalba. The two are still very much in love and they reinforce the fact that every human can write their own destiny.
This film also features the voice talents of Héctor Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Plácido Domingo and Cheech Marin.