Movie Review: Encanto (2021)

The 60th film produced by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Encanto is a 2021 computer animated family musical, featuring original songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda. Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Rosa Diaz) is the only member of her family not to have received a magical gift: for example, Mirabel’s two sisters, Isabela (Diane Guerrero) and Luisa (Jessica Darrow) can create flowers and have super strength, respectively. Under the guidance of family matriarch, abuela Alma (Maria Cecilia), as the day approaches of the gift ceremony for the youngest of the Madrigal Family, Mirabel begins to sense something is off, and believes the family may soon lose their powers. Angie Cepada, Carolina Gaitán, Rhenzy Feliz, Adassa and John Leguizamo in supporting roles.

+ as to be expected, the animation is simply fantastic. The different proportions of the three sisters, for examples, never look out of place and they all interact in some phenomenal ways. Is that traditional dance called flamenco? Whatever it’s called, I love it. Some of my favourite animation moments were the very small bits, such as an eye roll and scoff, or fake smile to appease some irritatingly curious children
+ both of Mirabel’s sisters are significantly better characters than she is, flawed in their own ways in the context of having powers and living their lives. How this is explored make for two of the better moments of the film, and easily two of the best songs
+ the soundtrack didn’t really do much for me at first, but it was the few days following this viewing that I found myself humming one or two line from a few songs in particular. In the end I’d say maybe three or four of the songs are good, but see below for some more thoughts on the music

– this may be intentional, but it still bugged me: Mirabel is easily the last interesting character in the movie. Not just because of her lack of powers, but she does not come across as nearly as relatable as any of the others. I spent my time wanting to know what her sisters were up to, instead. A movie revolving around Dolores (Adassa) and how she deals with her power would have been far more interesting
– I could take or leave the voice cast, as none stood out in particular. I was only familiar with two of the names (one being Stephanie Beatriz, from her role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine). None of them immediately feel as iconic and long-lasting as Dwayne Johnson as Maui (in Moana), or Kristen Bell as Elsa (in Frozen and its sequel)
– regarding the music, I think of it like this: Hamilton was incredible, and I cannot recommend that everybody watch that at once. But Hamilton was good only in very small part due to the words of the songs. The choreography was mind-blowing, and the limitations of a stage play when compared to a fully 3D animation movie made everything that happened in Hamilton feel significantly more dramatic and meaningful. I am in no position to talk down about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song writing ability, but the same style of song — expository verse, catchy chorus, final fast rap bit — I just didn’t feel worked in this setting
– I have a big old issue with the movie’s most famous song; once you’ve seen this, ask me about it because it is kind of a spoiler but not really

> for the second time, after Moana, an animal companion was shown in the trailer and barely in the movie outside of that appearance. Disney really knows how to hook me in; with adorable pigs, chickens and toucans
> I thoroughly enjoyed the pun in the title, too. Most of Encanto is “en canto”.

Should you see this film: I was not sold on this at first, but after going back to listen to the songs a few times I can say it was certainly worth seeing. It wasn’t perfect (and for my money, none of these new wave of animation films since Tangled have managed to meet that high mark) but if you like South American culture, enjoy a catchy song or two and have a spare two hours on your hands you can’t go wrong with this.

3 Comments

  1. I do agree with you that Tangled was the peak of this CGI period in Disney. Even though everyone adored Frozen, I found the characters much more loveable in Tangled. Not to mention the musical number of “At Last I see The Light” was beautiful, almost rivaling “A Whole New World” with its melody and use of visuals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Brooke, thanks for commenting! I am glad someone finally agrees with me! 😀
      Rapunzel was a fantastic character to get behind and she more than earned her happy ending. I think my favourite song was “Mother Knows Best” and that very sinister reprise.

      Liked by 1 person

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