Disney delivers the magic once again with a tale about a family overcoming trauma. Leave it up to the mouse house to make existential themes relatable to small children. Whether it be Woody learning how to deal with his fear of abandonment or Wall-E trying to save the world from pollution, there’s something the parents can learn with their kids. In this case, it’s to exercise forgiveness.
Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz) resides with her family in a remote town amongst the mountains of Columbia. The power of the Encanto candle has given everyone in the family unique abilities except for Mirabel herself. The only other family member who lacks powers is Bruno (John Leguizamo). Cast aside as the family’s black sheep, Mirabel must seek Bruno to discover the answer to saving her land.
Encanto is a classic Disney story. Mirabel is the film’s Cinderella. Bruno is the Beast, in a symbolic form. The evil stepsisters are replaced with loving ones who can get testy on occasion. There’s the sister blessed with superhuman strength, the moody one who has a cloud orbiting around her head, and the little princess. The Encanto candle is the golden slipper of the story. In other words, the MacGuffin. The outcome of the plot isn’t difficult to guess yet isn’t overly predictable. The ride all along will have parents tapping toes with their kids.
Encanto’s bright color scheme is vivid enough to make Pedro Almodóvar blush. The magic hour lighting burns bright with eye-popping visuals that sync up to the score perfectly. The casita’s tiles and windows dance to the tune of Germain Franco and Lin Manuel-Miranda’s charismatic score. Aside from one song that didn’t hit the right note, the musical pieces are catchy but not incredibly memorable. One particular piece uses reggaeton which, if you like it great. For me, Pablo Lorrain summed it up best. And that was in a pro reggaeton film I adore! It’s just a personal preference thing.
Musicals aren’t for everyone. The pure fourth-wall breaking nature of it is almost too theatrical for the spectator’s measure of tolerance. Delightfully the amount of musical pieces are minimal, making them arrive at critical moments of the story but never disrupt the pace. Less is more, after all. The less a character has to sing every line of dialogue, the more we care about the story.
Upon doing further research for the film, it’s clear that Encanto is a personal project for its filmmakers. Not one but three directors are attached to the project. Jared Bush, Bryon Howard, and Charise Castro Smith create a kid’s film about fear, regret, and forgiveness. It’s something that goes beyond the genericness of having a quirky family. Encanto is about unearthing our secrets. When the truth is revealed, can we forgive and heal? Or do we cower in fear?
Coming fresh from another animated picture about family, it drew a comparison on how to write a child’s story compared to how not to write a child’s story. Encanto is a film that correctly weaves its tale about togetherness. The Mitchells vs. The Machines leans towards corniness to make up for any real emotion. The humor doesn’t pester its audience with endless slapstick gags, pop culture references, or record skips to deliver a punchline. The jokes feel natural in this world, giving bitter old me a few genuine chuckles. The movie I saw the day before had the same themes, but it all felt as artificial as the robots chasing the Mitchells. I know I’m in the minority on this one. For that, you’ll probably agree to disagree with me.
If beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, I found a beauty in the genuineness of Encanto’s sentimentality that came off as pandering in Luca The Latin pure energy glistens on the screen with a universality that can connect to anyone besides its central filmmaker’s personal story. Where Luca and The Mitchells vs. The Machines came across as self-serving, Encanto’s usage of three directors’ imaginations creates a universality in Mirabel, rendering her potentially as ubiquitous as Cinderella. The Madrigal household might be another Disney attraction with countless tunes the park goers can dance along to if done right.
Encanto releases November 23 only in theaters.