A young Colombian girl has to face the frustration of being the only member of her family without magical powers.
Disney (and Pixar, now under their umbrella) have spent a lot of time recently attempting to expand the scope of the type of stories they are telling, bringing in fresh perspectives and looking at different countries and cultures. After the success of works such as ‘Moana’ and ‘Coco’, we’ve already had ‘Luca’ this year and now we have ‘Encanto’, which takes place in Colombia. It is the story of a young girl who happens to be the only member of her family without magical powers, and at its heart it’s a story of acceptance and learning to love others for who they are, and not who you want them want to be. So far, so Disney.
‘Encanto’ is centered on the Madrigal family, led by the matriarch abuela (grandmother) Alma (Maria Cecilia Botero), a dominant presence who discovers a magic candle in her youth and uses it to build a magical house for her family to live in. This, in turn, leads to each member of the family developing magical powers that they use to help their fellow villagers. That is everyone except for Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), who does not have a special gift and as a result is treated differently by the other members of the family. This leads Mirabel to try and find out why, taking her on a journey of discovery where she learns a lot about herself, but also about the rest of her family. Again, so far, so Disney.
‘Encanto’ is as bright and colourful as you’d expect given the setting and the subject material, and it has a catchy set of songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who appears to have a hand in every musical these days! Unfortunately that is where the praise stops, as in most other elements this is one of the weaker Disney efforts of recent years. I felt the story was very bland and lacked the ambition of Disney at its best, and the decision to forgo a villain meant the film lacked the spark that it really needed. Colour and music can only get you so far and all the focus seems to have been on the look and feel, and not on the storytelling which has always been at the heart of Disney’s finest works. ‘Encanto’ is Disney on autopilot, trying to be nice and safe and pleasant, and ‘Encanto’ is all these things, but that also means its quite forgettable and dare I say quite boring. Stick to the classics instead.
Directed By: Jared Bush & Byron Howard
Starring: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitán, Diane Guerrero and Wilmer Valderrama