Growing up with both the Disney Renaissance and Revival Era of Disney Animation has provided a slew of magical memories and endless inspiration. With every new release, my family and I would go to our local theatre which has sadly closed and spend an afternoon lost in a world of wonder with a deeply moving story, relatable characters and pure joy. Unfortunately, this has not happened since ‘Moana‘ all the way back in 2016. With the embarrassing ‘Ralph‘ sequel, mediocre ‘Frozen‘ sequel and insanely average ‘Raya‘, it was starting to feel like Disney had run out of their magic. Even the trailers for ‘Encanto’ seemed lacklustre and average, although to be fair Disney Animation has always had a tough time with trailers. However, upon its release, the overwhelming love and praise for this movie started to pour in. Unfortunately, it came out during the busiest month a movie theatre can have so I didn’t get a chance to see it till January! Having finally seen it, I can gladly say that ‘Encanto‘ is not only one of Disney’s best movies ever but it successfully revives the Disney magic that was so lacking these past few years.
major spoilers for ‘Encanto‘ are featured in this review.
By the time I got to see this movie (last week), I had already memorized one of the songs and known most of the characters’ names. I was basically a fan before I had even seen the movie. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind whether or not I was going to enjoy the movie and I was right. I absolutely love and adore ‘Encanto‘. The Madrigal Family provides one of the best, animated ensemble casts I’ve seen in years. The characters are compelling and relatable, the musical numbers are jaw-dropping, the animation is truly incredible and most importantly, they’re all preserved in a story that is deeply moving, emotionally resonant and cohesive. It’s actually quite odd because it feels like the most ‘Disney’ movie ever but it doesn’t behave like one. There isn’t really an antagonist or a grand epic scope, the movie never dilutes to simply blaming a single person for all the wrong that was caused. It presents certain situations and characters and flips the perspective, Abuela and Bruno being the most prominent examples.
Just like in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, we get a tragic prologue and a fantastic opening number introducing the entire town right after. Let’s get this out of the way, the music is fantastic. 2021 seems to be Lin-Manuel Miranda’s year and I couldn’t be happier. ‘The Family Madrigal’ does a spectacular job introducing Mirabel and the rest of her family. In under five minutes, Miranda captures everything that makes this family such stars to this town. It showcases the wonderful character designs in bright, gorgeous colours and indescribably detailed animation. The facial expressions and acting from the animators is truly something to behold. They truly feel like real, living people. Everyone’s personality is established instantly including the glowing hearted Mirabel whose purity and enthusiasm radiate off the screen. There is such an astounding radiance of love in just this opening number. Witnessing the unwavering love and admiration Mirabel has for her family despite being the “giftless” one was genuinely endearing. She was still secure enough in herself to know her own worth even if sometimes feelings of being an outsider crept up. This is where Mirabel’s relatability shines through. Anyone can relate to having a standard that although it wasn’t explicitly placed on you, you still feel guilty for not having reached. Also how cool is it that we have a Disney lead with glasses?
Despite Mirabel’s feelings being the most prominent ones featured, the rest of the Madrigal Family have a lot on their minds as well. ‘Encanto‘ never looks at this family from one specific angle, it treats every member with the same respect, hopefully in the future more screentime as well. The magnificently strong Louisa sings an entire song about being crushed under the weights of the ridiculous expectations placed upon her. ‘Surface Pressure’ is a song which sadly enough, a lot of people can relate to. Whether it’s handling every family burden or literally the entire weight of the town, it’s overwhelming and borderline unhealthy. It’s nice that in these newer Disney/Pixar movies, being sad or open about your true emotions isn’t seen as a negative but actually natural and necessary. Then there’s Isabela who I relate to purely as a creative person. Making sure every flower is perfect and appealing when it’s not necessarily what you want it to be. Her song ‘What Else Can I Do?’ feels like an artist set free not only from artistic restrictions but also the mental ones we put on ourselves. Even the less featured characters like Camilo (whom I need an entire song from please!) reminds me of me being an older brother as he is to Antonio.
As I previously mentioned, one of ‘Encanto’s defining traits is presenting you with an idea only to completely flip it around later on. This happens twice in the movie, once with Abuela and even more clearly with Bruno. The latter being a very obvious misdirect which ties into the themes of being misunderstood in a perfect family. It’s actually quite alarming how much I love Bruno, he is so effortlessly charming and funny and it really is all due to the excellent casting of John Leguizamo and the amazing character design. Bruno definitely deserves to be talked about. Moving on to Abuela who is often portrayed as a tough, over-controlling perfectionist who still clearly loves her family even if it means unintentionally hurting them. Abuelo’s sacrifice, in the beginning, is portrayed as heroic and told almost through the lens of a legend. In the end, when Abuela retells the story to Mirabel, it’s shown for what it truly was, a tragic sacrifice. It is painful and traumatic and it leaves Abuela alone. Despite Abuela’s trauma translating into a new form of trauma, a generational trauma, she is never seen or treated as the villain. How Abuela treated Mirabel was wrong and awful at times, there’s no changing that but the movie and Mirabel made the effort to understand her situation. They finally communicated effectively and gave each other the lift they so badly needed.
Overall, ‘Encanto‘ was a blast from start to finish. I haven’t felt this excited to talk about a Disney Animation project in years. This is a movie I’m gonna want to introduce to as many people as possible. There honestly aren’t any flaws other than the tiniest of nitpicks. The voice-cast is excellent, the animation is stunning, the music is lively and the messages run deep. It is truly the perfect family movie and I cannot wait to share it with my own family and start that Disney tradition once again.
‘Encanto‘ is showing in theatres and streaming on Disney+ right now.