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Encanto poster

Encanto

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What it’s about:

Hidden in the mountains of Colombia live the Madrigals, a family who all reside together in a magical casita. Due to a miracle bestowed upon their grandmother, each member of the Madrigal family has a magical gift—except for Mirabel. However, when Mirabel begins to notice cracks in their home, she sets out to find what’s disturbing the magic and how to stop it.

Names you might know:

Stephanie Beatriz, most recently seen in In the Heights and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, voices the spunky heroine Mirabel. Diane Guerrero, who you may recognize from Jane the Virgin and Orange is the New Black, voices Mirabel’s perfect sister, Isabella. Comedian John Leguizamo voices her uncle, Bruno. Fun fact: most of the voice cast is either Colombian or of Colombian descent.

Why it’s worth your time:

Promotional still from Encanto provided by DisneyEncanto lives up to its name: it’s enchanting. It’s been a while since Disney has had a film that evokes the wonder of their earlier films, but Encanto does it well. Despite its culturally specific setting, the film’s broad appeal proves that venturing into diverse stories is the right direction for Disney.

Encanto’s biggest strength is its visual design. The film is drenched in vibrant colors reminiscent of the Disney Renaissance (the period beginning with The Little Mermaid in 1989 through 1999’s Tarzan). During the development process the animators visited and studied the culture of Colombia, and it shows. They manage to capture the warm, lively culture of the country, a welcome change from the many pieces of media that have portrayed it in a negative light.

While the music—composed by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda—is not as strong as some of Disney’s other films (Miranda’s soundtrack for Moana definitely slaps) it’s not without charm. The songs that truly stand out are a mixture of multiple genres, drawing inspiration from Latin music but pushing it into more theatrical territory. The most memorable ones include “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which will make you want to salsa; “Waiting on a Miracle,” the perfect “I want” ballad; “The Family Madrigal,” an upbeat number that introduces us to the story’s family of characters; and “Surface Pressure,” which fuses modern pop with more traditional musical theater. The visuals during “Surface Pressure” provide some of the best moments of the entire film, reminiscent of the quick cutaways during the animated version of Aladdin.

It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that unlike more recent Disney films, there are no twist villains here. In fact, Encanto does not even have a traditional villain. The story centers around the complexities of family dynamics, and ends with a positive message that is great for both kids and their parents. Mirabel is also one of Disney’s most charming heroines. She’s independent, intelligent, dorky, and extremely relatable. She’s also the first Disney heroine to wear glasses!

The takeaway:

Encanto is a charming and heartfelt musical with beautiful visuals that ought to delight families of all ages.

Watch it with:

This is a multi-generational story, so feel free to watch it with your entire family (particularly your children or siblings) or very close friends who are basically family.

Worth noting:

Encanto incorporates many facets of magical realism, a literary genre closely associated with Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. For instance, the yellow butterflies in the film were inspired by his novel 100 Years of Solitude. 

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