Directors: Bryon Howard and Jared Bush
Writers: Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith
Starring: Stephanie Beatrix, John Leguizamo, María Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, and Wilmer Valderrama
Walt Disney Animation Studios have been on a massive winning streak recently with their animated films. It genuinely feels like they can’t go wrong. It’s been over a decade since Tangled came out, and since then there hasn’t been anything less than amazing. They’ve struck gold again with Encanto, the 60th film in their almost 85-year history. With this one, they are teaming up again with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is have a stellar year himself and wrote the lyrics to all songs in Encanto.
The Madrigal family all have special gifts, from controlling the weather to super strength. It all started when Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) tragically lost her husband in an attack from invaders. At the time she was holding on to a candle that is enchanted with a miracle, that protects Alma and her three children. Over the years every member of the Madrigal family has been gifted powers from the miracle, all except Mirabel (Stephanie Beatrix). They use their powers to help their local community. Mirabel feels left out, but she soon finds out that her actions hold a vital role in the future of the family.
There’s a lot of refreshing ideas in Encanto. While the film is about a superhero family, this is a much more personal and focused story than you’d expect from its premise. Most of the film takes place in the Madrigal house, with very little taking place outside. There isn’t a villain that’s trying to destroy the family, it’s a much more internal and emotional struggle that the family is going through. It deals with the idea of burden and responsibility. They have these incredible powers, but they use them to help the community they live in and must deal with the pressure that can create.
As you’d expect from a Disney film, this is a treat for people of all ages. There are enough silly and wacky moments to keep children enthralled and more complex characters and dynamics that keeps everybody’s attention. While there isn’t the lovable and silly mascot, like Olaf from Frozen, that we’ve all come to expect from every new Disney film, there’s still a lot of laugh out loud jokes. It just doesn’t have a character that everyone will want as a cuddly toy, which could be a good thing this close to Christmas.
The film is just over ninety minutes long and doesn’t feel it at all. It’s completely gripping, and the time just flies by. The story, which focuses on the cracks in the family house that Mirabel discovers, has many little twists and turns and doesn’t feel padded out or rushed. After the fantastic Raya and the Last Dragon, which is a world-spiralling adventure, Encanto is a much more insular and fun story that’s full of emotion. Mirabel feels left out, without any gifts, but still tries to help the family however she can. You feel her struggle as those around her single her out.
There’s no surprise that the songs are excellent. There isn’t one that will be on repeat forever like Let it Go, but they are all catchy and fun. Miranda’s lyrics are energetic and punchy like you’d expect from the man behind the songs of Moana, not to mention In the Heights and Hamilton. Germaine Franco writes the score, which works perfectly with the lyrics. The animation is simply breath-taking. There isn’t another studio that comes close to Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film feels real, like you could reach in and touch it. It takes a moment to forget that you’re watching animation as you’re whisked away into the story.
Somehow Disney just keep on creating instant classics with their animated films. It’s fun, moving and completely captivating. It’s the perfect treat, just in time for Christmas.
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