The family’s challenge of finding a holiday movie that suits everyone is a perennial one. This is as much a part of tradition as turkey on Thanksgiving, and Christmas carols on the radio soon after. Disney’s offering this December for the holiday season is called “Encanto”, and it’s going to be warm, feel-good family friendly movie – and Colombian magical realist tale about a family that after tragedy received special powers. Nowadays they live under one roof in mystical house for several generations already while developing their own talents such as being able to manipulate weather patterns, turn into any person they like or communicate with pets. The casita (house) responds to requests from each member of the family and what their moods are at any given time. Each relative’s room is magically aligned with its owner and his/her magical skill but there still exists one exception – Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz).

“Encanto” centers on Mirabel, “the girl without an obvious gift,” who does her best to blend in among relatives so extraordinary that her critical grandmother Alma (María Cecilia Botero) expresses nothing short of disappointment at every step she makes. It’s hard for Mirabel because her mother Julieta (Angie Cepeda) can heal injuries with food- specifically, arepas con queso; Luisa (Jessica Darrow) can lift even the heaviest weight effortlessly; Isabela (Diane Guerrero) grows the most beautiful flowers not even thinking about it. Meanwhile Mirabel notices some cracks in their casita yet nobody believes her thoughts treating them as something uncle Bruno might say being estranged from everybody including his closest relatives who are not close enough to him.“ It is up to Mirabel not only to figure out what is happening but also save both- her home and her family.

Directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard (“Zootopia”) along with co-director Charise Castro Smith (”Raya and the Last Dragon”), whose physical appearance rather closely resembles that of the leading character in the movie, made another sympathetic film about non-conformists seeking to do what is right. Most notably, this Disney movie has no villain but rather one amorphous “unknown” that threatens both the family and their abode. The conflict is very minimal at most thereby enabling young lady Mirabel spending more time discovering herself despite her being powerless; nevertheless, it also makes the film slightly wandering. In order to compensate for action lost, the film excels in its animation and design as it effectively employs different doors that lead to new worlds within the house and musical sequences which are a bit more abstract artistically speaking.


As concerns those melodic sequences, I think it’s nigh time Lin-Manuel Miranda takes a break. His 2021 offerings were not as strong after previously giving us “In the Heights,” “Hamilton” and “Moana.” In this review, I have eventually watched “Vivo,” the movie in which he has voiced the title character and wrote songs for. These numbers sounded insubstantial and unmemorable. In one song, he rhymed ‘drum’ with…‘drum.’ This time around in “Encanto,” some songs are a little bit better off than others but still there is this kind of feeling that these musical numbers are just the warmed up leftovers from his previous projects. They sound like him, but they do not give us any new or stimulating ideas to stick in our minds. The disposable pop tunes of Isabela and Luisa titled “What Else Can I Do?” and “Surface Pressure” are sickly repetitive. Therefore, none of them are very good.

An insipid song is an unfortunate thing for an animated musical of “Encanto” nature. Good thing is that there are other aspects to love such as the film’s raucous voice cast among them; Carolina Gaitán, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Wilmer Valderrama, Mauro Castillo and one-name Latin music stars Maluma and Adassa It’s also amazing to see skin tones vary at Disney animation finally within the same family while incorporating Colombian symbols like ponchos, flowing embroidered skirts, colorful dresses as well as guayaberas among other details about characters Beatriz is so great here! Her voice carries both pain and love throughout the film without losing her goofy sense of humor that makes her so likable Abuela’s singing voice comes from Olga Merediz (another former member of In The Heights).

Just like Pixar’s Coco did for Mexican culture, Encanto has many nods towards its Colombian roots, from using flowers and animals specific to the regions, to making songs that captured each country’s music palette. In both cases, as much (if not more) than the children themselves, matriarchal abuelas have their own arcs through which they must travel emotionally. It’s an interesting new phase in Pixar and Disney Animation’s narratives that take them around the world; however I hope this doesn’t mean repeating each other in themes or plot points.

One difference is that “Encanto” explores the Madrigals’ backstory beyond their household, showing the Madrigal grandparents fleeing their homeland for safety and Abuelo’s ultimate sacrifice in an artistic flashback. Many immigrant families have lost their home countries and rebuilt them again somewhere else; it is a story which is not strange to hear about most immigrant families including those who are part of this movie. By incorporating this into a simple Disney film with charm, maybe a new generation will feel like they belong better or at least know others share their pasts. For those children whose stories were not told about a “paradise lost,” perhaps they can get to understand such stories well now That might be overly hopeful for post-turkey coma movie night but despite some wrong moves “Encanto” is one of the cutest animated films of 2021.

Watch Encanto on Kisscartoon

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