"Encanto" is Disney's 60th full-length animated feature, and one of the only ones to not feature a typical "villain." It works, instead centering on the idea of family and community, drawing its drama out of a young girl's inward exploration of how exactly she fits into her eccentric family.
Anyone with a family (dysfunctional or functional) will relate to the themes of "Encanto," and while it feels different than most other Disney animated films, it's another successful entry into the studio's massive canon of films that will appeal to the young and old alike...and is also a wondrous celebration of Colombian culture.
Featuring music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (his second stint with Disney, following "Moana"), "Encanto" immediately introduces the viewers, via song, to the Madrigal family. They were blessed with the gift of magic after the loss of the family patriarch, leaving the grandmother "Abuela" (Maria Cecilia Botero) as the head of the family. Each of the children - and grandchildren - were blessed with different unique "gifts" bestowed to them when they come of age. One was granted super-strength, another a shape-shifter, one given super-sonic hearing abilities. Bruno (John Leguizamo) had a "gift" all his own, but has vanished from the family home...a home which, by the way, also is "alive" with magical powers.
Only Mirabel (voiced by "Brooklyn 99" actress, Stephanie Beatriz) is the lone family member who was not given a magical "gift." Nobody knows why exactly, but she's had to live with the idea that she is not in any way "special." Have you ever felt like the black sheep of the family? "Encanto" is a movie meant for you.
Of course this being a Disney movie, Mirabel of course is special, perhaps just in other non-magical but equally important ways. The film delves into themes of self-worth, self-discovery and familial roles. The Madrigal family, as special as they are, use their powers for good by providing safety, shelter and goods to a nearby town, who in return love the Madrigals and see them as a vital part of their community.
The positivity, love and compassion displayed in "Encanto" is enough to bring tears to your eyes. The music fits the story and at all times feels like signature Lin-Manuel Miranda...yet the Spanish-language song "Dos Oruguitas" (a love story of two caterpillars forced to change, performed by Sebastian Yatra) is the real stand-out...as is a closing number called "All of You."
Each member of the family learns and grows, understanding that their gifts (or in Mirabel's case, her lack thereof) do not and should not define them...that growth is often not possible unless you learn to loosen your grip on the things you hold dear. While it takes an unfamiliar road to get there, and at times feels uneven (there needed to be a few more musical numbers, in my opinion, in the film's middle-third), "Encanto" ultimately delivers the goods, and one of the most meaningful Disney morals in years.
Genre: Animation, Family, Adventure.
Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes.
Starring (voices of): Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Wilmer Valderrama.
Directed by Jared Bush ("Zootopia"), Byron Howard ("Zootopia," "Tangled," Charise Castro Smith (feature film directorial debut).
"Encanto" is in theaters on Wednesday, November 24th, 2021.
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