Starring: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard
Running Time: 109 mins
Encanto is an American film about a young woman, the only one without powers in a family blessed with magical abilities, who seeks to save her family and her town from ruin by uncovering the truth of their story, and bringing everyone together.
A perfectly lovely animated adventure complete with lively voice performances, lovable characters and gorgeous visuals, Encanto is a movie that certainly made me smile. Having said that, the film is far below the high standard set by recent Disney animations like Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, which have delivered both hugely entertaining adventures and emotionally resonant stories for all ages.
Encanto, for the most part, is a lot lighter and a lot simpler. Looking at it on the surface, it’s a fairly generic Disney story about an outsider (this time in her own family) becoming the one to save the day as everyone around her begins to lose their powers. As such, this doesn’t have the gripping narrative thrills of some of Disney’s classic family adventures, and it also struggles to inject captivating emotion into the mix.
While the movie is really sweet, and the lead character is perfectly lovable, it never really tackles any challenging emotional themes. There certainly isn’t a moment that even resembles a classic Disney tearjerker, and attempts to use secondary characters to further the story of the family dynamic generally fall flat.
That being said, one thing that Encanto does do well is deliver some colourful variety. Not only is it a visually delightful watch that’s reminiscent of the dazzling Pixar adventure Coco, but its wide ensemble cast of characters all get a moment in the limelight to show off their different magical abilities, many of which make for some good laughs.
Most of the powers aren’t immensely original – with the exception of one family member’s enjoyably hectic weather power – but they do point to a film that’s got a nice sense of imagination, even if it doesn’t show anything that will really wow you.
In general, Encanto is a fairly predictable Disney movie that does little to stand out from the crowd. The only point where it does feel different to all the films that have come before is in its brand of music. And unfortunately, this more modern streak of Disney music really doesn’t have the power or the magic of the studio’s love for show tunes.
The lyrics of the songs were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton and Tick, Tick…Boom! fame. The hallmarks of his songwriting style are all over the music in Encanto, from the use of rap to plain, straightforward professions of feelings and emotions in lyrics that skirt some of the more elegant and melodramatic traditions of Disney.
Unfortunately, none of the songs in this movie ever stick in the mind, and most feel more jarring than helpful in progressing the story. From the way-too-fast lyrics in the opening number to rather boring and repetitive themes in side characters’ songs, this is unfortunately one of the poorest Disney movies from a musical standpoint, and a disappointing step away from the iconic brand of music that always adds an extra level of energy and spectacle to the table.
On the whole, then, I found Encanto to be rather a mixed bag. It’s a sweet, simple movie that’s full of visual sparkle and lovely characters, but it lacks the emotional resonance, narrative depth and above all musical spectacle of the very best Disney movies. And that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.