The latest feature from the animation powerhouse Disney, Encanto, is a colourful musical movie about family, respect, and working together. Helmed by Zootopia directors Jared Bush, Byron Howard and The Haunting of Hill House writer Charise Castro Smith, the animated movie looks stunning and has a cohesive, but predictable narrative. However, despite its familiar story, which is a bit too safe, Encanto feels fresh as it celebrates Colombian culture while giving us the typical high-quality art and finish that we’ve all come to expect from the studio.
Set in Colombia, Encanto is a fantastical story that intertwines magic with real-life familial dynamics. The Madrigals family has been blessed with a miracle – a magical candle – which has created a paradise for them and their community to live in. Along with creating a safe haven for everyone, the candle has blessed the Madrigals specifically, granting each member with an extraordinary gift such as super strength or the ability to control the weather. Once a child comes of age in the family, they are given their own fantastical room and a superpower which they will then use to help the citizens of their community.
All this may seem hunky-dory, but the home of the magical Madrigals isn’t without interpersonal tension. One person, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), hasn’t received a special ability of her own, leading her to feel inferior to her sisters and struggling to find a place within the ranks of her super-powered relatives. But with the candle’s flame starting to dim and cracks in the magical house starting to form, it is now up to the powerless Mirabel to save her family’s gifts as well as their home.
After uncovering a vision from her estranged uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), Mirabel learns that she is the key or the potential cause to the candle’s flame going out and her family’s house falling apart. She decides to take matters into her own hands and confronts the fractures in her family’s dynamic in hopes to fix the fleeting magic. Mirabel must face her own feelings of inadequacy, mend bridges with her “perfect sister” (Diane Guerrero) and critical abuela (Maria Cecilia Botero), all while racing against the clock to save the day and the candle’s light.
Written by Smith and Bush, the family movie’s ability to craft relatable human-focused stories and an amazing, animated world resembles past flicks from Disney and Pixar, such as Inside Out or Coco. Like those past films, there is a lot to love about Encanto; however, unlike those titles, the new movie doesn’t hit hard since, plot-wise, it is nothing we haven’t seen before. The narrative about families overcoming misunderstandings and learning the value of one another is an age-old story that Encanto almost wholly relies on.
There are no high stakes in Encanto and the consequences of the candle going out aren’t really ever explored past the Madrigals just becoming a normal family. We never see the community itself in any immediate danger during the present day. The result is a narrative that is full of potential but is held back by its lack of originality in its basic plot points.
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That being said, despite its predictable narrative, Encanto has solid pacing, is one of the studio’s most theatrical musicals to date and is a solid feature for Disney’s first animation celebrating Colombia. With lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Encanto’s music is unique and upbeat. The songs tend to filter into conversations more frequently than past Disney movies and feature dramatic animation that at times feels like completely different set pieces.
The stylish choices in Encanto are amazingly fun to watch and feel akin to a stage musical on screen. It should also be noted that tracks such as ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ are guaranteed to get stuck in your head for days to come. On the back of great music, Encanto’s voice cast is equally as impressive. Stephanie Beatriz perfectly captures a sense of earnest determination as Mirabel, while John Leguizamo, as the outcast and misunderstood Bruno, is a captivating blend of endearing nerves.
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It’s obvious from the film’s music, art, and even down to its enthusiastic ensemble of actors that there was a lot of passion involved in Encanto’s production. This evident level of dedication from the cast and crew, along with the film’s striking setting, makes Encanto feel special. However, its safe script prevents it from being as monumental as it had the potential of being. But, let’s get one thing straight – Encanto is still a film animation lovers won’t want to miss and proves to be a heartfelt watch that families will undoubtedly latch onto.
Encanto opens in theatres on November 24.
A beautiful but predictable entry to Disney’s portfolio of animated movies.