“Encanto” stars Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Maria Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, and Wilmer Valderrama. Released on November 24, 2021, the film is about a young woman who attempts to save her magical family.
The film was directed by Bryon Howard and Jared Bush, both of which directed "Zootopia". It is the 60th film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Wow. When someone says we each have a special gift, they really mean it. The wonderful world of Disney has returned with another original animated movie that got every family together for Thanksgiving. The best part? It's about a family. But wait! It gets better. It's about a family with superpowers. I could already smell a potential crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film sees the Mouse House's attempt to transport its audiences into the fantasy realm of Colombia, continuing its impressive track record in providing stunning worlds based on cultural history. This is one of the things I loved about some of Disney's recent releases like "Moana" and "Raya and the Last Dragon", and I'm pleased to see that continue with "Encanto". But as usual, the film would have to have more than just world-building to receive its seal of approval. So was the film magical enough for me to recommend to everyone? Let's find out.
The story takes place in a town in the mountains of Colombia. A family, known as the Madrigals, resides in a magical house that grants each member a unique ability such as super strength and communicating with the animals. Unfortunately, the only person who didn't get a special gift is Mirabel (Beatriz), a quirky young woman whose only ability is being ordinary. One day, the house begins to fall apart, resulting in the Madrigals losing their powers. With time running short, Mirabel must go on a perilous journey to restore their magic before it vanishes forever. It's very easy to know what to expect from a Disney animated movie, mainly the musical ones. You got the charming characters, a mixture of comedy and drama, and toe-tapping songs that'll likely become infectious earworms in the future. It's a formula that has been working wonders for 84 years, and to no one's surprise, it has also worked in "Encanto". Disney has always taken the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" seriously regarding its formula, and the results usually turn out extremely well in its favor. The same should be said for the studio's 60th animated feature. You read that right. They made 60 of them, and trust me. They will be more in the future. "Encanto" is an enchanting blast of color and magic that represents a good depiction of Colombian culture and the importance of family. Although, I wouldn't call it one of the studio's best. Compared to the likes of "Zootopia" and "Raya and the Last Dragon", "Encanto" went for a more straightforward approach in its plot and scale. Most of the film occurs in the Madrigals' Casita and the village, where Mirabel attempts to solve a mystery behind Casita's impending doom. The characters never went anywhere else beyond those settings. There are also no surprising reveals in its story, and they're certainly no shocking villain twists. It's just a simple animated film that relies more on family drama rather than high-stakes conflict. On the one hand, it was another suitable change of pace for people who're tired of Disney delivering mature themes and turning likable side characters into cold-hearted assholes, like Prince Hans from "Frozen". Eight years, and I still flipping hate that guy. On the other hand, it can lead to some moments that were easy to predict or lacked the distinctiveness in its narrative. Now, I don't mind by-the-numbers storytelling as long as the narration quality is good enough to be enjoyed by kids and adults. That's pretty much one of my main rules of reviewing films like this. Fortunately, "Encanto" managed to be more than good enough as it delivered a thoughtful and entertaining story filled with gorgeous visuals, fun characters, and inspiring messages. While it may seem like a Colombian version of "X-Men" on paper, the film is more along the lines of a family drama about a gift that's more powerful than super strength and weather manipulation: appreciation. "Encanto" is another film that celebrates people's differences and teaches audiences to appreciate what they do have instead of what they should have. That is the case with the main character Mirabel. Despite being the only Madrigal without a gift, she always strives to help her family in a time of need, even though her family didn't give her enough credit. She didn't care about getting her powers herself; she only focused on putting her family ahead of her needs. That alone is what makes Mirabel another strong and charismatic role model that'll inspire many kids for years to come. She's wonderfully bizarre and incredibly relatable due to the direction and Stephanie Beatriz's remarkable performance. The fact that she isn't a Disney princess makes this element a whole lot better. At least, in my eyes. The film also gets major props for having a supporting cast with Hispanic heritage, including John Leguizamo and Wilmer Valderrama. Like Beatriz, they all did an outstanding job with their roles, especially María Cecilia Botero as Abuela Alma Madrigal. Leguizamo was also surprisingly enjoyable as Bruno, Mirabel's excluded uncle who can see the future. Bruno wasn't in the film that much, but the writers made a noticeable effort in making his role essential to Mirabel's quest. In addition to the characters, the story is also powered by its beautiful animation. From its imaginative visuals to the vibrant backgrounds, the animation is just as dazzling and energetic as a fiesta. It may not be as immersive as "Raya and the Last Dragon", but the animators worked with what they had regarding its limited environments, and the result was nothing but spectacular. The songs in "Encanto" were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also helped with the film's story. If you've listened to Miranda's other music from his previous works, you'll already know what he's offering here. While the songs may not be as unforgettable as the ones from "Frozen" or "The Lion King", they're still enjoyable enough for me to dance along to in terms of the film's style and Colombian music.
Overall, "Encanto" is another delightful and thoughtful piece of Disney magic. It's not the most ambitious in terms of storytelling, but in cases like this, it didn't have to be. It just needed to be thoroughly entertaining for the kids and respectively tolerable for their parents, and the film managed to accomplish that goal with ease. This is another solid hit from Disney due to its voice cast, animation, strong messages, and decent musical numbers. It's another family movie that I would highly recommend to…well, all types of families.
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