Released: 25th November
Seen: 11th December
Disney animated movies lately feel pointless to review. What’s there to say? “So, the company known for making really good animated films made a really good animated film… again”. Great, there’s the entire review of Encanto in a sentence that’s above my usual cut so now you know the obvious thing that you assumed the second you saw the poster hanging about. Congrats, you beat me to the punchline… still gonna review it anyway because what else am I gonna do with my free time? Hobbies? HA!
Encanto introduces us to the Madrigal family who lives in a magical living house that is the centre of a little town known as Encanto. The Madrigal family are led by the matriarch Abuela Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) who carried her own children to this land when she was escaping an armed conflict that threatened her family. Once Alma found Encanto she was given a magical candle that gave every member of her family, including her children and grandchildren, special gifts that range from super-strength to the power of premonition… well, all her family except for Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz).
Mirabel is the only member of her family who doesn’t have some kind of gift, which makes her feel like a useless outcast. That is until one day when Mirabel appears to see the house breaking apart and the magical candle going out all on its own, but she’s the only one who seems to see it. With no one believing her, Mirabel decides to go find the lost member of the family who had the power of premonition, Bruno (John Leguizamo), and see if he can help her figure out just what might be causing the problems with the Madrigo family powers.
From top to bottom, Encanto is another slam dunk of a movie that’s hard to poke any holes in. Visually it’s stunning, full of glorious bright colours and fun imaginative imagery that just pushes the limits of what the medium can do. Everything from subtle looks to bold exaggerated reactions all works wonderfully with this visual style that’s impossible to look away from. The visuals really shine when the time comes to do a musical number because that’s when we can ignore the rules of reality and do things like having a character walk through a beautiful dramatic slowed down shot to sing about how they’re Waiting on a Miracle or deliver a big bold set of silly visuals that perfectly match the feelings expressed while singing about Surface Pressure. It’s like the animators got told to just go nuts and have fun and they embraced the assignment.
Those songs are another in Lin Manuel Miranda’s growing list of genuinely great accomplishments, each song is just so good and emotionally satisfying that you can’t help but brighten up when you hear the music cue for a new song to begin. I won’t be shocked if one of these songs ends up being the big Oscar nominee, my hope is for the joyous fun of What Else Can I Do but I feel like the big song Columbia, Mi Encanto is basically demanding that attention. Any song from the show is just proof that we’re going to be living with a lot more Lin Manuel Miranda musicals for the foreseeable future.
Speaking of that Columbia, Mi Encanto song, it’s absolutely glorious how every cast member of this film (Except the guy voicing a toucan) is either Columbian or of Columbian descent, it’s a lovely bit of representation that proves how incredibly easy it is to make a large and brilliant cast out of every group (maybe we should do that more often?). It’s not only a grand display of some truly talented people, it also really does help make the core story of a family of immigrants trying to make a new life for themselves feel as real as can be. Yeah, this movie is very politically heavy, behind the veneer of the adorable songs and magic houses lies this deep rich tale about the importance of family and building a community after dealing with intense hardships and it all just works so well.
Encanto is just another great Disney film that’s basically destined to delight. Is it my favourite of the year? No, still a big old Luca fanboy here (though I do enjoy that this film has a “We don’t talk about Bruno” motif running throughout, a nice pairing with the “Silencio Bruno” moment from Luca) but it’s definitely a glorious piece of art that’s just wonderful to watch. The perfect family movie for imperfect families everywhere.