REVIEW: Disney’s “Encanto” is a vibrant, family-centered adventure for everyone

Encanto+premiered+in+theaters+Nov.+24

Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

“Encanto” premiered in theaters Nov. 24

There is no family like the Madrigals.

Tucked away in the mountains of Colombia, each member of the family has a magical gift that is unique to them. Isabela (Diane Guerrero) can control the flowers and make them bloom, Luisa (Jessica Darrow) has the strength of a thousand men and young Antonio (Ravi-Cabot Conyers) has the ability to talk to animals. But then there is Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), the only one in her family to not receive a gift when she was a child.

And that is where Disney’s 60th animated feature film, “Encanto,” begins. Utterly normal Mirabel has never felt like she didn’t belong in her family, even with the absence of a magical gift. But when she has a vision of something that could compromise the magic that fuels the miracle granted to her family, her path is set to prevent something that only she believes could take place.

Mirabel’s adventure to save her family’s magic ends up becoming something more — a way to connect with her siblings and cousins in a way that she didn’t know she could. There are many examples in the film, which I will not spoil, that are very sentimental and reveal that not everyone in the family is as happy or as perfect as they appear to be.

The film is part adventure, part comedy and part musical — a formula that Disney has practiced to the point of perfection with recent examples like “Moana” and “Frozen 2.” The vibrant colors of the Colombian mountainside and the Madrigal’s “Casita” fit perfectly with the soundtrack for the movie.

Written by Lin Manuel-Miranda, the creator of the ever-popular Broadway musicals “Hamilton” and “In The Heights,” the songs and lyrics are as lively and eccentric as you could expect a soundtrack for a movie set in Colombia to be. The flare of drums, maracas and accordions are infectious and make the movie feel authentic and representative of the Madrigals’ culture.

The themes of this movie go beyond family and the love you feel for them. And for a children’s movie, they are refreshing and actually very moving. One scene of the movie depicts a conversation between Mirabel and her older sister Louisa. As the dialogue progresses, audiences are launched into “Surface Pressure,” a song in which Louisa confesses how much pressure she feels to always be stronger than she is. The song speaks to a lack of and an eventual discovery of self-love, and knowing that it is okay to ask for help when you feel like you have too much to handle.

A similar theme is explored through a scene with Mirabel and her other sister Isabela. Mirabel is the least connected to Isabela as the two never seem to see eye to eye. Unknown to Mirabel until this point is that Isabela feels similar to Louisa; she feels that she must be perfect at all times because it is what is expected of her. These feelings are expressed through the song “What Else Can I Do?” which is vaguely reminiscent of “Frozen” when Elsa galivants over icy cliffs singing “Let It Go.”

Overall, “Encanto” was a pleasant surprise. What I originally thought was going to be another textbook Disney animated movie with music, adventure and maybe even a love story exceeded all of my expectations and left me a little stunned. While Walt Disney Animation Studios productions usually showcase the more magical, fantastical side of animation, “Encanto” felt more like a Disney Pixar film in how emotional and deep the themes cut and left me emotionally drained by the end of the third act. And I loved every minute of it.

The soundtrack, especially “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” “Dos Oruguitas” and “All of You” help to progress the plot of the story and adds a welcomed layer of culture to the colorful scenery. Likewise, the deep emotional themes will stand out to older viewers and show younger viewers that it is okay to be unique and wholly themselves.  This film is enjoyable for all ages. It will make audiences want to dance, laugh, cry and maybe even feel the need to hug their grandmother.

No matter your age, Disney’s “Encanto” is another Disney must-see that I give a 4.5 out of  5-star rating.

This story was written by Kim Cook. She can be reached at kimberly.cook@marquette.edu.