Encanto (2021)

Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
Writer: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Lin-Manuel Miranda (songs)
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma
Seen on: 3.1.2022

Many years ago, Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) had to flee her home together with her husband and her three children. On their flight, her husband didn’t make it, but Abuela got a gift, a miracle that gave her and her family magic powers and a safe haven in a magical house. Now the Mardrigal family uses their gifts to keep the village going. Everybody in the family got a different gift. Everybody but Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) that is. Now it is Mirabel’s little cousin Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) turn, and there is a certain tension in the air. What if Antonio doesn’t get a gift either? But even after Antonio is successful, there is something wrong – and Mirabel is determined to fix everything.

Encanto is sweet, touching and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, its colorful world-building and characters.

The film poster showing a house wrapped in flowers and the Mardigal family in its courtyard, with Mirabel at the front.

Encanto fits well with recent Disney productions that are obviously trying to show a little more diversity (like with Moana or Raya), an effort that is well appreciated. In this one, they even manage some diversity within the Madrigal family – different skin tones and hair structures – and have a thoroughly latinx cast to voice the characters. I am no expert on Colombian culture, but it feels like the movie makes some nice nods there. And it looks really wonderful.

I also really liked the rather dark backstory that includes the Madrigal family having to flee their home country (and not all making it). It’s a heavy topic but the film does handle it nicely and appropriately for children, I thought. The central theme of the film, though, is the pressure to be perfect and what that does to family. It’s a theme that will familiar to many children of families with migration histories, where it’s so very important to do your best in the new home. But with our performance-oriented society that’s far from the only people it will resonate with.

Mirabel carrying a basket full of party supplies.

And of course with Mirabel, we basically have a disabled protagonist (everybody has abilities that she just doesn’t) which is very nice, and also wonderfully handled with her finding her way and figuring out where her strengths are without those abilities. Beatriz is absolutely perfect in voicing her (knowing Beatriz mostly from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it still surprises me everytime to hear her normal voice).

I have to admit that when the film starts with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first song, I found myself sighing. It just sounded so much like him, like one of the many other songs he has written recently (I loved the Moana soundtrack but found everything else rather lukewarm). But some of the songs really grew on me, and after a while I didn’t mind it anymore.

In short, this is another win for Disney, and a wonderful addition to the family movie library. I can’t wait to see this with children at some point.

Mirabel and Bruno looking caught.

Summarizing: wonderfully sweet.

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