Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 39 minutes, Directors – Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
The only person in her family to not receive a magical gift, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) takes it upon herself to try and save the fading magic that brings their house to life.
Looking back on their offerings over the last few years Walt Disney Animation Studios have truly dived into the spirit of adventure. The last five years have included titles Moana, Ralph Breaks The Internet, Frozen II and Raya And The Last Dragon. Now, in the same year as the latter they return with something somewhat more stripped back. While Encanto has been slightly pitched in its trailers as a travelling journey with plenty of action and thrills amongst the mysticism of the titular magic, however its exploration rarely leaves the boundaries of the living house in which central figure Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) and her family live in. The family Madrigal are perhaps the most respected people in the town which their house lies at the top of – and which they practically run and helped build. Each has their own special gift – whether that be strength or the ability to talk to animals – apart from Mirabel who appears as a slight dark sheep in the family.
Their home is the product of a magic candle which came to grandmother and matriarch Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero, with Olga Merediz providing the singing voice) after her husband was tragically taken away from her. However, the magic begins to fade and while the Madrigal’s try to get on with their lives, in preparation for the flawlessly elegant Isabela’s (Diane Guerrero) engagement. Therefore Mirabel, despite not having her own gift, takes it upon herself to try and save the magic and explore the various forbidden walls and corners of the house.
It appears to take a while for the film to get to this point. While it offers occasional plot points every now and then they’re certainly spaced out amongst the scenes and details of the film, providing a more gradual pacing to the events overall. You feel like it’s going to build up to more, but once in the second half it becomes apparent that Encanto is a much simpler film than initially expected. It wears its themes of family and acceptance clearly throughout its fairly short run-time and allows those to often take centre stage and guide the narrative. When this clicks there’s a slightly smoother nature to the film to bring you further in. Although the extent to which you’ve already been brought in is perhaps underestimated due to the punch that an emotional flashback in the latter stages of the piece has.
It’s a more traditional feature from Disney – perhaps more alike to their effort eleven years and ten films ago in the form of Tangled – and perhaps that feeling adds to the simplicity and overall effect. The humour comes through well enough and the songs; while sometimes feeling somewhat out of place and uneven, with the help of Lin-Manuel Miranda provide a certain energy to push things along and add even more colour to the already colourful scenery of the Colombian town. By the ending, while the final scenes may feel like they’ve been divided up into distinct segments they undeniably round off the film and its themes rather well and keep you in place for an overall enjoyable time from Disney, the kind of pleasant trip which we haven’t seen from them for a while.
Encanto is a much more simplistic piece from Disney than perhaps initially expected, once this clicks in your mind it’s a more enjoyable and energetic film which allows its clear themes to lead with success.