• Nate Adams

'Encanto' review: Disney's latest musical cooks up sensational animated magic


Courtesy of Disney

 

For every generic and lifeless sequel Disney churns out for monetary gain or subscriber dollars, they create an “Encanto,” a wonderful, stunningly (and original) animated adventure about the power and magic of family. Featuring songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (between, “In The Heights,” “Tick, tick...Boom!” and “Vivio” coming out this year I’m not sure he actually sleeps) the latest Disney fable ditches the formulaic plots and annoying, jaunty tunes for an inclusive toe-tapping good time. It’s a movie you can’t wait to share with your own family and has insane replay value in that Miranda’s songs are infectiously catchy. You'll be singing long after the credits roll.


Baked in traditional Disney lore with enough magical ups and downs to sway the pot, “Encanto” follows the Madrigal family and their unique abilities in the community they serve. Living in the enchanted fortress called Casita, a house that speaks with tiles flapping and window shutters banging and also bestows incredible, life changing powers on members of the Madrigal clan; a tradition which began years prior under the matriarch, Abuela Alma (Maria Cecilia Botero) after she fled because of violence in her village. Out of this terrible tragedy, a magical candle was lit and granted her kids unbelievable traits like super strength, healing, and, similar to Mystique from “X-Men,” the ability to transform into anybody walking down the street. Casita doesn’t guarantee everyone a chamber with their own signature power, which the young Mirabel (a wonderful Stephanie Beatriz) found out the hard way when she tried to claim her birth right only to be given the cold shoulder surrounded by her closest friends and family. Ouch.


Mirabel is the glowing, beating heart of “Encanto”, a spitfire teenager with crackerjack energy who finds herself caught in a family mystery that puts their fate (and powers) in limbo. She’s gotta figure out a way to stop a horrible prophecy from coming true and it thankfully doesn’t involve traveling to far-away kingdoms, going on a dull side quest or rescue mission. “Encanto” is a domesticated affair uninterested in forced romantic subplots or quirky animal sidekicks ala Pascal from “Tangled” or the chicken from “Moana.” “Encanto” would rather focus on the love and struggles of the Madrigal family than get distracted with useless plot mechanics.


The animation creates an enchanting worldview of “Encanto” and the surrounding community the Madrigal family is responsible for protecting. You can see pristine attention to detail on the shacked homes, the fluff on a stranded donkey in the road, and the color palette represents some of the year’s best. The animators have made a wonderful homage to Colombian culture (which this film is heavily influenced) and the different skin tones and range of characters, not to mention Miranda’s eclectic score-a heavy blend of salsa, hip-hop, and bachata-cook up wholesome movie magic that’ll have no problem living on for generations to come.


Directed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard (“Zootopia”), “Encanto” has a beautiful underlying message about the struggles of displacement and family heritage/lineage that feels appportialey apt in these politically divisive times. Watching the Madrigal family use their own magic to help others less fortunate and rebuild impoverished homes is quietly effective. It proves everyone has a place at the Madrigal table, and, out of the many things “Encanto” teaches us, that’s not such bad company to be in.


Grade: B+


ENCANTO is now playing in theaters.