Genre: CG Animation
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitán Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa
Runtime: 1 hr 49 mins
Released By: Walt Disney Pictures
Opening Day: 25 November 2021
Synopsis: Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto” tells the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia, in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift from super strength to the power to heal — every child except one, Mirabel (voice of Stephanie Beatriz). But when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, Mirabel decides that she, the only ordinary Madrigal, might just be her exceptional family’s last hope.
While merchandise donning Disney princesses are still flying off shelves, the animation studio behind beloved classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Cinderella (1950) and The Little Mermaid (1989) knows it cannot portray female protagonists as individuals who are waiting for Prince Charmings to give them their fairy tale happy endings. The efforts to incorporate empowerment in female characters have been evident. Elsa, Moana and Raya do not have boyfriends, and they fight (both literally and figuratively) to find their place in life. They don’t go gaga over men, and are strong independent women. There are even catchy theme songs which inspired millions of girls to let it go and venture into the unknown.
It is hence noteworthy that Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 60th film features yet another strong female character, Mirabel Madrigal. She does not waste time wondering when her prince will come. She is part of a large extended family, and the film is about her quest to save the magic that has kept her family together – even though she seemingly does not have a special gift like the rest of them.
The Madrigals are a well respected family who has helped the people in their Colombian village with their various magic powers. Mirabel is the only member of the family with no such powers. One day, she sees visions of a disaster that will make the Madrigal powers disappear, and she is determined to find out the truth behind her premonitions.
This is a delightful from beginning to end. The visuals are stunning (expect nothing less from Disney), and you’d be in awe with the exploding colours and magnificence in every frame. For us in this part of the world, it is an eye opener as the Colombian culture comes alive with its energetic music. The 109 minute movie works largely because of its songs written by the talented Lin Manuel Miranda. There is a brilliant song which introduces the members of the Madrigal family, and a hilarious but painfully poignant song about the stress faced by Mirabel’s elder sister. Elsewhere, there is a catchy tune about the outcast of the family, and the finale song which you’ll tap your feet to. We haven’t heard such an infectious soundtrack for some time.
The voice cast is headlined by Stephanie Beatriz (whom we last heard singing in Into The Heights). As she belts out the songs in this animated film, you empathise with Mirabel. She gets the obligatory Disney tune where she sings about her inner sentiments, of course. John Leguizamo voices the uncle who mysteriously disappeared due to unknown reasons, while other Colombian artistes take on the roles of other members in the family.
What’s also admirable about the film directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush is its story. There is a pleasant departure from traditional titles. There is no antagonist who is threatening to destroy the world, and there are no cute animal sidekicks. The factors at play here are the themes related to family bonds. The movie explores the dynamics within the family, and what happens when some members are less regarded. This is something relatable in most families, if you ask us.
(Besides exploring relatable themes about family relationships, this Disney animated film also delivers wholesome entertainment, dazzling visuals and top notch songs)
Review by John Li