Encanto is the 60th Walt Disney Animation Studios film. The musical/comedy was released both theatrically and is available on Disney Plus. It's the story of a magical family, the Madrigals, whose home and powers are being threatened by an unknown force. This is a SPOILER-FREE review. Will this film put a spell on you?
Directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush (Zootopia) work together again to create another world of whimsy. Set in Columbia, the fascinating mystery which must be solved is told unlike other Disney films. The way each scene is staged is equally gorgeously elaborate when needed or more dark in atmospheric tone when required. It's balanced well and makes me wonder what Zootoopia would have been like as a musical.
Written by Charise Castro Smith and Jared Bush, they craft a quasi-superhero story that goes down unconventional routes. Mirabel encounters various obstacles using her mind and surroundings to overcome them. They smartly stayed away from making the Madrigals the typical superhero family going on a secret mission. This separates them from the X-Men, Fantastic 4, or The Incredibles. It's more similar to Moana in the sense that the Madrigals need to save their home and magic. It's also a funny film without compromising the severity of the situation. It results in a satisfying conclusion further accentuating the theme of the importance of family and how everyone is extraordinary in their own way.
The music by Lin Manuel Miranda. Each song pushes the plot forward while providing a distinct characterization for the person singing. None of them feel like filler or out of place. Each one is unique because the entire cast of characters has distinctive personalities with hopes, fears, and flaws. It's some of Miranda's best lyrics although In the Heights and Hamilton are both hard acts to follow. The highlights are The Family Madrigal, Waiting on a Miracle, Surface Pressure, and We Don't Talk About Bruno. They have a certain sound to them reflecting the variety of people in the family. Each individual adds something different to make up the family as a whole.
Stephanie Beatriz is Mirabel, the only one without magical abilities. She plays her with jovial enthusiasm despite being the outcast. She isn't affected by what's happening, driving her to solve the mystery to save her family. I like how they didn't squeeze in a romantic love story. Mirabel is strong enough a character to stand on her own without forced distractions. She remains optimistic and level-headed despite insecurities of not being good enough to be in the family. She's a likeable character with clear motivations along with sympathetic qualities.
Angie Cepeda is Julieta, Mirabel's mother who can heal others. She gives a great performance as a wise, strong mom who only wants what's best for her next of kin. She heals with both her words and magic.
Carolina Gaitán is Aunt Pepa. Her mood controls the weather. A storm cloud humorously follows her around Charlie Brown style. She plays her as the eccentric aunt with quirky mannerisms exacerbating the individualism of the family members. She's more memorable in my opinion
John Leguizamo is Uncle Bruno with the ability to see the future. He disappeared one day and since then the family doesn't talk about Bruno, no, no, no.
María Cecilia Botero is Abuela Alma, the stern matriarch of the Madrigals. She's the mother of Julieta, Pepa, and Bruno. Her voice work provides an authoritative coldness coming from a scorned place. The many layers of her character and the range of many emotions can be felt through the sound of her voice.
Jessica Darrow is Luisa, Mirabel's second oldest sister who has super strength. Despite this, she has insecurities making her relatable. She questions if she has the same inner strength as she does physical strength. She's my favourite character because she's an older sibling that supposed to be everyone's rock but isn't sure if she can take the weight of her burdens. I connect through personal experience.
Diane Guerrero is Isabela, Mirabel's eldest sister who can make flowers bloom at will. Like a flower, she's delicate but resilient. The theme of underlying insecurities is explored from a different perspective because she flourishes in the spotlight yet stresses about maintaining her "perfect' image.
Alan Tudyk plays Pico, the toucan. He's become a staple over the years contributing his distinctive voice acting. Even when playing animals, he's a welcome addition.
Overall, I had low expectations going in but came out pleasantly surprised. It's a feel-good story emphasizing the importance of family. It subverts expectations by telling a different kind of superhero story. The animation is colourful with a vibrant palette for the extravagant musical numbers especially. It makes me wish I had seen it in 3D in theatres but it's wonderful it's already on Disney Plus. On top of that, how lucky are we to get three Lin Manuel Miranda musicals in one year? I highly recommend this for kids and kidults of all ages, even non-Disney fans. It cast a spell on me indeed. And remember, we don't talk about Bruno. No, no, no.
Grade: Extra Large Popcorn