Bright, lively, and touching, Disney’s Encanto offers heaps of musical fun.
Starring: Stephanie Beatriz, Maria Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro
Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, and Wilmer Valderrama
Directed by: Jared Bush and Byron Howard
Tagline: There's a little magic in all of us ... almost all of us.
was quite the year for Lin-Manuel Miranda. His Broadway musical In the Heights was adapted into a feature film. He voiced the titular character and provided the songs for the Netflix animated adventure Vivo. And he made his directorial debut with a terrific adaptation of Steven Levenson’s tick tick…BOOM! But perhaps the most glorious feather he added to his very decorated cap was the music he wrote for the Disney film Encanto which has since wormed its way into our collective mind, where it now occupies permanent residence. We can’t stop talking about ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ and it is totally Miranda’s fault! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the film is quite delightful as well.
Encanto takes us to the mountains of Columbia and introduces us to the Madrigal family who have been blessed with a miracle. Each Madrigal descendent is gifted with a power – from super strength to weather modification – which they use to serve their community. Each Madrigal, that is, except Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, i.e. Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, thankfully sounding nothing like Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine!).
Even though everyone else in her family has been granted a power, Mirabel mysteriously did not receive one, making her feel a little left out but in no way dampening her sunny disposition. But when cracks start to appear in the Madrigals’ enchanted house, Mirabel discovers that the family is losing their magic, and sets out on a mission to discover what is happening in order to save the miracle.
Along the way, Encanto provides everything from emotional poignancy to musical fun. At its core is the idea of not being able to live up to your family’s expectations while carrying the weight of the pressures others put on us as well as the ones we put on ourselves. And at its heart is Miranda’s ridiculously catchy soundtrack. Each of the eight songs he wrote – from ‘The Family Madrigal’ (performed primarily by Beatriz’s Mirabel) to ‘Surface Pressure’ (performed by Jessica Darrow, who plays Mirabel’s older sister Luisa) – is charming in its own way, but of course it’s the aforementioned group number, ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ that is the talk of the town, having just become the biggest crossover success ever from a Disney movie.
The visuals are vibrant, the script is buoyant, the pace is crisp, and the performances by the voice cast are on point. And it’s wonderful to see the South American palette weaved into the tale. Sure there are treacly moments aplenty, and yes it never really wanders too far from the proverbial road that Disney movies generally take, but ultimately it’s impossible to resist Encanto’s magic.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection