ENCANTO is directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush. The film features the voices of Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Maria Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, and Wilmer Valderrama. It features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The Madrigal Family lives in Colombia, far from civilization. Tragic turns of events in their past lives were turned around by the creation of a magical candle which gave them a living village to call home. Mirabel loves her life and her family, but finds herself dismayed by memories of her coming-of-age day when she failed to receive a magical ability like the other members of her family did. When the magic keeping the town and the Madrigal home together falls into an uncertain future, it’s up to Mirabel to set out to save the magic.
ENCANTO’s opening Walt Disney Animation logos proudly state it’s the 60th animated film from the studio; it arrives just a handful of months after RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON. It’s amazing how long the studio has endured, always finding ways to put fresh spins on an established formula, and of course having moved into the realm of 3D animation as opposed to the 2D ways of old. ENCANTO is another triumph for the studio with its fantastic songs, animation, characters, and universal appeal to young and old alike, even if it’s got an overabundance of characters and predictable ending.
Where ENCANTO rises highest is its leading lady, Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz. Disney has always managed to create appealing leads in their animated works, and this cute, insecure, well-meaning young lady with an eternally optimistic outlook, despite being the lone Madrigal family member who wasn’t bestowed with a gift on her special day, while those around her have abilities ranging from super strength to healing powers and talking with animals. We sympathize as an audience with Mirabel, and she remains likable and someone we love to follow. It’s also nice we’re getting more female Disney protagonists who don’t have to rely on a man to succeed at their tasks (in fact, the movie doesn’t even offer her a love interest, which is a refreshing and welcomed change). The remainder of the cast members are largely defined by their abilities, but they still manage to come across as interesting and part of a cohesive family, making the movie all the more interesting, with the other true standout of the bunch being John Leguizamo’s eccentric Uncle Bruno, who must be seen to be believed.
The bright, bold visuals and the soundtrack are the glue that holds ENCANTO together, and the film is never boring as a result. Kids will love the colorful animation that ranks among the best to come from the House of Mouse, while older viewers will love the themes of family and togetherness. That ENCANTO can succeed at both without ever feeling overly preachy is a major asset, and it’s one of the reasons I loved the film. Laughs are plentiful, but the movie never takes the easy way out or settle for cheap jokes, which is a major plus. What’s truly surprising is that most of the movie is relegated to a single location (there’s no big epic journey away from home) yet still feels fresh all the while.
There are only a handful of weaknesses in an otherwise stellar film. One unsurprising issue is that the movie does throw a few too many characters at its viewers (this is literally mentioned by a kid in the film's opening song), not really giving all of them the time they need for the proper development (could this mean we’ll be revisiting them for some Disney+ shorts in the future, perhaps?) The ending also feels a bit rushed and convenient, though this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve said that about a Disney film.
ENCANTO is loud, vibrant, emotional, and a great delight for young and old. In Mirabel, Disney has given us another memorable heroine who has quickly become a new favorite. Sure, it’s not the most original production from the Disney company, but audiences of kids and adults alike will have too much fun with it to care. A strongly recommended movie!