Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Encanto follows an extraordinary family called The Madrigals. Years ago their matriarch, Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero) received a candle with a flame that never goes out. This magical candle created their village hidden in the mountains of Colombia called the Encanto. Additionally, the magic of the candle blessed every child in the Madrigal family with a unique gift, except one — Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). However, Mirabel may be her family’s last hope when she discovers that the magic is now in danger.
The aptly-named Encanto (Spanish for charm) is a charming, fun film for the whole family. The Animation is beautiful, bringing the vibrant colours of Colombia to the big screen. The stunning Animation captivates in moments around the family’s house. Stairs turn into slides, window shutters make faces and each family member’s bedroom is our entry point to their gift. The Animation department gives immense detail making the rooms as unique as the gifts.
Before we meet each character, there’s a grand opening number with Mirabel and three children from the town that introduces us to the family and their gifts. It’s our first glimpse of the sadness Mirabel feels for not being given one. This entertaining and intelligent opening also introduces us to the outstanding Music ahead. Lin-Manuel Miranda writes catchy, impactful songs that expose the characters inner and exterior conflicts while progressing the story forward.
Screenwriters Jared Bush, Charise Castro Smith and Miranda have created a truly relatable film about familial pressures. They show this through different members of the Madrigal family. Mirabel feels like she doesn’t fit in because she wasn’t given a gift. The disappointment Mirabel feels from her family makes her work extra hard around the Encanto. Beatriz is great as Mirabel showing her courage and confidence grow. Also, Beatriz gives Mirabel quirks that resonate in their comedy. Even members who received a gift feel pressured.
Her two sisters, the strong Luisa (Jessica Darrow) and ‘perfect’ Isabela (Diane Guerrero), feel the constraints of their gifts. Luisa’s identity is tied to her strength and she believes she will be useless without it. Darrow brings humour and vulnerability to Luisa. Additionally, her powerful singing voice leads to a memorable solo number. Isabela can grow flowers and make anything appear ‘perfect’. Her family has planned her entire future. Isabel agrees because she thinks that’s what a ‘perfect’ person does. Guerrero is great as Isabela, conceited in the beginning, particularly when she’s snobby to Mirabel. When Isabel finally lets loose, Guerrero revels in the newfound freedom and fun Isabel has.
Additionally, there’s one family member who chose to leave. With humour and compassion, outcast Bruno (John Leguizamo) is introduced to the audience. Bruno is one of those Disney characters who will stick with audiences for a very long time. Leguizamo is fantastic as the eccentric Bruno who longs to be with his family again. The song about Bruno is one of the many musical highlights in the Film.
Overall, Encanto has gorgeous animation, catchy songs, relatable characters and a powerful story. Additionally, it reminds us to love and accept our family for who they are and how they choose to live their lives. Sometimes you just need to let go and have hope.
Walt Disney Studios Canada release ENCANTO on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.