TL;DR – This visually stunning film is held back by unneeded musical moments that feel more like filler than integral.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ subscription that viewed this movie.
Encanto Review –
Animation is a medium that, when used to its best, can radically transform your experience of a story, but which is usually related to being a lower form of filmmaking. Today we look at a film that uses the strengths of animation but then also feels like the medium held it back from its true potential.
So to set the scene, 50-years before the start of the film, the Madrigal family and their community were on the run from enemies, and just when they were surrounded, and all was lost, magic happened. A magic candle created a sanctuary for the community and a sentient house and gave the family magical powers. This continued from Abuela Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) to her daughters and grandchildren. However, when it was Mirabel’s (Noemi Josefina Flores) turn, there was no magic power for her. Now grown up, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) works to prove herself for the family as her cousin Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz) prepares to find his magical power. However, while things go well, cracks start appearing in the house, and soon all the magic is trouble.
Now I feel like I might be a bit harsh on this film, so before we dive in, I want to make it clear that there was a lot of this film that I liked. Firstly, the animation was stunning. It uses the visual style that you see in many Disney Animation films, like Moana, which is then blended with the visual iconography of its setting in Latin America. This combination is striking and works to create a movie that is always visually engaging. Colour explodes in every frame, and it is a delight. Chaos reigns in some scenes, but the animation is always transparent, so you always know what is happening. The world they create is also beautiful, with warm terracottas juxtaposed with the jungle vegetation.
As well as the visuals, the cast is also a vital element of the film. Stephanie Beatriz is a delight in every moment she is on screen, you immediately connect with her character, and she presents a very sympathetic link to this more magical world. The film also does a great job of giving the unvoiced Casita a personality and drive that I have not seen done as well in a Disney film since maybe the Magic Carpet in Aladdin, or Pascal & Maximus in Tangled, depending on how you classify it. Also, each member of the family is designed and cast in a way to make them all memorable, which given how many members there are, is quite remarkable as many films struggle in this regard.
However, where Encanto falls flat is how it forwards its story. This is a film that feels like it is leaning on its musical numbers, not as an integral part of the story, but as a crutch for the sillier aspects of the narrative or worse, just to pad out the narrative. Besides the opening, and closing numbers, none of the songs felt like they fit or were needed and, in many places, the pacing of the film would have been better without them, even if they were well produced. All of this led to moments of frustration when another unnecessary song started up and the realisation that the very straightforward narrative would probably not be enough without the songs. Underneath all of this, there is an interesting narrative about pressure families place on their children, but that quite often gets lost in the mix.
In the end, do we recommend Encanto? Without a doubt, there are some very frustrating moments throughout this film. Thankfully there is a visual polish that smooths over some of these cracks, and the cast is always there for the story, even if the story is not there for the cast. While it might not be my favourite animated film from the year, it was still engaging, and you could do a lot worse with your time for an hour a half. If you liked, Encanto, I would also recommend to you, Coco.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Encanto
Directed by – Jared Bush & Byron Howard
Story by – Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith, Jason Hand, Nancy Kruse & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Screenplay by – Charise Castro Smith & Jared Bush
Music/Songs by – Germaine Franco & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Cinematography by –Nathan Warner, Alessandro Jacomini & Daniel Rice
Edited by – Jeremy Milton
Production/Distribution Companies – Walt Disney Pictures & Walt Disney Animation Studios
Starring – Stephanie Beatriz, Noemi Josefina Flores, María Cecilia Botero, Olga Merediz, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitán, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi-Cabot Conyers, Maluma, Jorge E. Ruiz Cano, Alyssa Bella Candiani, Noemi Josefina Flores, Paisley Day Herrera, Brooklyn Skylar Rodriquez, Ezra Rudulph & Alan Tudyk
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: G; Germany: 0; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: PG; United States: PG