Full disclosure, I’m not an obsessive Disney fan. I may be obsessed with Frozen, Frozen II being the last Disney movie I watched, yet I have missed out on a bunch of classics and don’t feel any need to see them. But when I saw the trailer for Encanto in my YouTube feed, something about it spoke to me. There was something about it, perhaps the colors, the premise or characters spoke to me. But I kept my hopes subdued, because I didn’t want to be burned again like with Frozen II which did not live up to my high expectations.
And now, I can safely say, not only did it meet my expectations, but it exceeded them. This movie might finally have dethroned Frozen as my all-time favorite Disney movie.
The story follows Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) and her family, the Madrigals in their enchanted house in a valley in Colombia. Everyone born into the family Madrigal is given a Miracle, a gift, when they’re 5-years-old, like Mirabel’s sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow) who has superhuman strength, or her aunt Pepa (Carolina Gaitán) who’s mood changes the weather. However, Mirabel did not receive a gift, and is constantly trying to prove her place in the family. When the candle that fuels the magic of the family starts fading, Mirabel resolves to try to save the Miracle and help her family.
The plot may be simple, yet I believe that it’s in its simplicity that the real magic of Encanto lies. One of Frozen II downfalls was its overly ambitious story and world. Encanto’s story is wonderfully contained which allows both the location and characters to flourish, and the movie allots screen time to every family member. After the opening scene, we’re quickly introduced to every family member and their power in classic Disney style, a song. Once again, the lower scale does wonders for the movie and its cast. The family is easy to grasp, with either unique gifts or personalities making everyone memorable, my personal favorite being aunt Pepa who is not only a comical joy with her mood swings but has some of the funniest expressions the animation is able to produce.
Speaking of the animation, it will never cease to amaze me how far we’ve gotten in 3D animation. With every new scene, location, musical number, I was blown away by the astounding beauty that every frame contained. From the vivid colors to the flow of clothing and hair to the small details like the house moving things in the background. Every character carries distinct expressions and their movements flow so effortlessly. This is, visually, one of the most beautiful animation films I’ve ever seen, only challenged by perhaps Arcane. But even Arcane can’t hold a candle (pun intended) to the gorgeous arrangement of colors that grace almost every frame. Speaking of visually breathtaking, the music numbers.
Much like the Madrigals, the music numbers all shine in their own way. They may not be the absolute peak in Disney’s song library, but there is no denying they’re good. I keep listening to them on Spotify, with each listen, I find something new I enjoy or even change my opinion on which is my favorite. Some songs offer a different musical style as well, so you’re guaranteed to find at least one you’ll love, and if you don’t think so, at least give “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” a listen. However, where Encanto excels is the visual theatricals of the numbers. Each number is backed by an incredible display of creativity, seamless transitions, and character, each perfectly encapsulating the lyrics and characters singing it. Seriously, if you’re in doubt, watch “Surface Pressure” on YouTube and watch how magnificently they go from one scene to another.
Another fantastic aspect of Encanto is that it does not waste time nor scenes. There’s not a single part of its run time where I felt they could have cut something out. There aren’t meaningless subplots and the plot points don’t feel drawn out. It feels like the movie respects the audience’s time, focusing only on its tightly written narrative, and not letting anything get in its way.
The story of Encanto is not groundbreaking, nor are its themes. But it doesn’t have to be. Because it pushes its thematic to the absolute limit, doing it justice, and giving a well-paced story that will tug on your heartstrings by the time the credits roll. I won’t lie, I teared up by the end, because the film so beautifully explores the meaning of family, the burden of expectations and the feeling of belonging. And Mirabel is just such a darn likeable character, you can’t do anything but root for her.
Hats off to the voice cast as well, every voice actor are perfectly portraying their characters. I was shocked to find out that Stephanie Beatriz was Mirabel’s voice actress, because I know her as the badass Rosa from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The characters are all well-written and none really falters in comparison to their peers. I would have wished for a bit more screentime for a few, like Antonio (Ravi-Cabot Conyers) who takes a backseat after the first act, or Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz) who appears from time to time but often just for quick gags. Another small criticism is that the humor is often a hit or miss. The verbal gags often fail to land, however, I found that the visual gags always made me smile or giggle. But these minor complaints pale in comparison to everything the movie does right.
Encanto can be summarized as an absolute delight. From the stunning visuals to the bopping soundtrack and one of the best stories I’ve seen in a Disney, heck, in an animation film ever. It will have left an impact by the time the credits roll, one I’m glad I got to experience. This was Walt Animation Studios’ 60th film and marks a great addition to their library. And if they keep producing masterpieces like Encanto, I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future.