Synopsis: A young Colombian girl has to face the frustration of being the only member of her family without magical powers.
Stars: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderrama, Adassa, Diane Guerrero, Mauro Castillo, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Rhenzy Feliz, Carolina Gaitán, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Maluma
Directors: Jared Bush, Byron Howard,
Co Director: Charise Castro Smith
Running Length: 99 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: With the release of Encanto, a milestone is reached for Walt Disney Animation Studios. This spirited musical bursting with color and tuneful songs is the 60th feature film released by the legendary animation division. Beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, the studio has had its fair share of high and low points over the ensuing 75 years and even acquiring animation pioneer Pixar couldn’t backburner their own output. Producing many bona fide hits and Oscar winners, not to mention an array of dazzling shorts to proceed their many full-length movies, Walt Disney Animation Studios is consistently pushing the boundaries on exploring new cultures and experiences that reach out to audiences globally and Encanto is no different.
Deep in the heart of the Columbian mountains, there is a town that was created as a refuge during a time of war through the power of a miracle gift the villagers come to know as the Encanto. The original family that started the town, the Madrigals, were blessed with an additional gift. Each Madrigal has had a special talent bestowed upon them when they reached a young age. Some had strength, some could speak to animals, some could heal through food, each endowment was unique and often brought forth something that was already inside the person. Every Madrigal was given this gift…except for Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz, In the Heights) who failed to receive one during her ceremony and has never known why.
It’s during the newest ceremony for her young cousin and the festivities surrounding his new ability that fissures within both the figurative magic and literal house the magic built begin to appear, causing Mirabel to investigate the history of her family further. Clues lead her down a path that point her toward an uncle (John Leguizamo, The Night Clerk) who fell out of favor with Abuela Alma Madrigal, the matriarch of the clan, and is not spoken of anymore and the possibility that he may be affecting the current state of the miracle. With the family seen as a source of strength for the town, Abuela Alma is pressured to keep any hints of weakness within her children and grandchildren under wraps. Consequently, Mirabel is forced to take drastic measures if she hopes to use ordinary means to accomplish an extraordinary mission.
Accompanied by a series of tuneful songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda (already having quite the good November having just released his feature directional debut tick, tick…BOOM! on Netflix last week) that are pleasing to the ear but never quite get under your skin, Encanto bursts with color and movement from the beginning. I’m always amazed how the animators seem to find new hues in the rainbow with each film they debut, and every swirl of shaded pastel or dash of a vibrant primary palette makes your eyes bug out a little further. There were a few moments during Encanto’s more action heavy moments that have such specific sequences of events where I wondered how long it took to storyboard the movements before the animation could happen. It’s no wonder these films often can take years to finish.
Directors Jared Bush & Byron Howard’s 2106 film Zootopia won an Oscar as Best Animated Feature for Disney and for a very good reason. The animation was detailed and complex and the story supported it all with an interesting plot that balanced developed characters with some truly hilarious moments. Much of those same elements are on display here. The characters in Encanto feel emotionally whole and formed as humans, rather than cartoons. When it does delve into more of the humorous parts, it is legitimately funny, and the belly laughs that emerge feel like they are emanating from a satisfying place. While the voice acting is on target, I couldn’t help but feel like some of the voices were auto pitched to sound younger…but I can’t confirm that.
I don’t find it as easy to sit through animated films as I did even five years ago, and I think it’s because they start to all blend together after a while. That isn’t the case with Encanto which has the aura of a bold fragrance which pleasantly lingers long after you’ve left the theater. Adults as well as kids will find something to enjoy within the frames and kudos to Disney for continuing their efforts to travel the world in search of the next story and culture to explore.