Thursday 30 May 2024

Ani-MAY-tion: Encanto (2021)

A Disney tale about a young Colombian woman trying to find her place in her gifted family, Encanto is everything you have come to expect from the best movies created by the House Of Mouse. It's sweet, funny, features some delightfully playful lyrics, and looks absolutely gorgeous throughout.

Stephanie Beatriz voices Mirabel, a member of the Madrigal family. Thanks to a magical candle that has stayed burning for them through decades, every member of the Madrigal family eventually receives a gift that helps people around them, including a local community that has grown and thrived with the Madrigals at the heart of it. Mirabel has one sister who is super-strong and one sister who can make flowers and plants bloom anywhere around her, she has a mother who can heal with her cooking, and there are other family members who can control the weather, shape-shift, have super-hearing, and even communicate with animals. And then there's Bruno . . . but "We Don't Talk About Bruno".

The writing and direction here is credited to Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Charise Castro Smith, but there's also a fair amount of credit to be given to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who gets a nod for helping to shape the story, as well as being credited for penning the catchy songs, in between a consistently lovely score from Germaine Franco . As much as those people should receive a good amount of praise, every animated film of this calibre feels like the end result of a fantastic collective effort from the many people who work on every different aspect of the animation and the audio.

Everything is helped by a great voice cast too. Beatriz is wonderful as Mirabel, the heart and soul of the tale, Maria Cecilia Botero is suitably imposing as Abuela Alma, Mirabel's grandmother and the protective matriarch of the Madrigal family. Jessica Darrow, Diane Guerrero, and Adassa are wonderful in their respective roles, I have just highlighted them ahead of some others because of enjoying their characters so much, and John Leguizamo is fantastic when we finally get to meet his troubled character.

Encanto is funny and adorable in equal measure, it's also inventive and absolutely determined to make every main set-piece as magical and eye-catching as possible. Every character and detail works, especially as things lead to a third act where things knit together to make the movie equivalent of a supersized family comfort blanket. There are, of course, some valuable lessons to be learned before the end credits roll, and people of all ages will appreciate the central dilemma for a character wanting to help her family while battling against the pressures put upon her (even if those pressures seem to stem, paradoxically, from being reassured that she shouldn't feel any pressure).

Despite the high standard of the animated Disney movies from the last decade, this deserves to be jostling for a spot at the very top of the rankings. It's a potential modern classic, and I would certainly revisit it ahead of some of the other top contenders (I'm side-eyeing you, Frozen).


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