Our Take: 5/5 Stars
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto” is a new musical and fantasy film set in the mountains of Colombia.
The story focuses on the Madrigals, a family who live together in a magical house. The house, also known as an “Encanto,” blesses and protects this family with magic. At a certain age, all the children in the Madrigal family are blessed with mystical gifts that provide them with unique powers that they use to help the neighboring town.
One of the members of the family, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz, “Brooklyn 99”), received no powers, and that makes her feel like an outcast, even though she is kind-hearted, diligent and loyal to her loved ones. Through a series of events, Mirabel finds out that her family magic might be in danger, and that sets up the rest of the plot.
“Encanto” is filled with the whimsy and the fantastical elements that Disney is known for, and it delivers in terms of storytelling, visuals, great voice work and music. The cast for this movie is well picked, and their voices match the diverse personalities of their characters.
Since music is a major feature of the film, it’s not surprising that the song sequences are enjoyable, and all of the songs feature great visuals. Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of the historical musical “Hamilton,” also created the soundtrack for “Encanto.” The standout song was definitely “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which has amassed 93 million views on Disney’s music YouTube channel.
While the plot may not be as grand as the other epic storylines of past Disney films, given that the entire setting takes place in essentially a relatively small mountain valley, it still has a way of engulfing viewers in the magical realism that Colombia scenic beauty is known for. There is no traditional Disney “villain” or conflict, which could lead to a lack of emotional payoff.
The film’s conflict also resolves itself in the end and the danger never truly feels looming. On the other hand, it was refreshing to see a film that focuses on an internal conflict rather than an outside force.
Familial relationships are a major feature of the film which is captured beautifully in the relationship between Maribel and her Abuela (María Cecilia Botero, “La Bruja”) and the sibling angst between her older sister Isabella (Diane Guerrero, “Orange is the New Black”).
The concept of large families living together can be relatable to many audiences, especially in many Latin/Hispanic households. The Madrigals are a very large family, and the viewer learns just how large they are in “The Family Madrigal” song, but despite that, every character gets a chance to shine.
Other family members who may not get as much screen time are not forgotten, which is something that happens often in movies and television shows. The characters in “Encanto,” are given memorable lines and action sequences that play to the plot’s importance at different times throughout the film.
Overall, it’s pleasant to see Disney make a film about a diverse Colombian family featuring a young woman as a protagonist. “Encanto” is a film with various messages from learning to love oneself to valuing and reconnecting with family. It’s a film that brings heart, magic and great emotions to audiences. For the 60th animated motion picture from Walt Disney, this work of art shows just what the studio is capable of in the future.