Review by Camden Ferrell
After their last film, Zootopia, won an Academy Award, directing duo and Disney veterans, Jared Bush and Byron Howard are back with another outing for Disney. Encanto is their newest feature, and they are joined by co-writer and co-director Charise Castro Smith. This is another adorable and enjoyable Disney film, one that is elevated significantly by one of their best soundtracks in decades.
This family fantasy film focuses on the Madrigals, a Colombian family who have been blessed by the magic of the Encanto. They live in a magical house in a booming town, and each of the Madrigals have been given a unique and magical gift. However, Mirabel is the only child in the family who is not given a magical power. From there, we see her deal with the frustrations of being ordinary in an extraordinary family. It’s a fun and unique premise that audiences of all ages will enjoy.
The screenplay from Smith and Bush is slightly better than the average script from Disney. While it’s not subtle in its humor, interactions, and themes due to their target audience, it doesn’t ever feel boring. It lays down a strong narrative foundation on which the animation can be built into something truly enjoyable. The jokes are relatively strong, and it definitely feels like theirs a conscious effort to connect to the adults in the audience. Sometimes the writing can come up a little short and some of the humor doesn’t always land properly, but it’s admirable writing for a family film.
The voice acting in this movie ranges from adequately forgettable to strong. The film is led by Stephanie Beatriz who plays Mirabel. Her typical charm doesn’t always shine through in her voice acting, but it’s still the strongest performance in the movie. She has a decent screen presence, and she also has strong command over her singing throughout. The other highlight from the cast is Maria Cecilia Botero who plays Abuela Alma. She is consistently strong throughout the film as well. The rest of the cast is decent, but no one else really stood out to me as exceptional in their role.
Without a doubt, the defining aspect of this movie is its music. Composed by musical-theater icon, Lin-Manuel Miranda, this is one of Disney’s best soundtracks in decades. Miranda’s style and influences are evident almost immediately, and these songs feel wholly unique within Disney’s repertoire. While not his best work in his career, this is his best work for a feature film, and it is full of catchy songs that might help him complete his long-awaited EGOT.
Like a lot of other Disney movies, the animation is really beautiful throughout. There’s such a keen attention to detail present, and it allows you to feel immersed in the movie and the world it’s creating. In addition, the physical comedy is aided by the consistently creative animation. The characters interact with their environment in a way that doesn’t get boring or monotonous.
At its core, this is another movie about family and what makes us special. It’s not new territory for family films, but it’s a tried and tested formula that works yet again for this movie. It’s not too long and doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it has a lot going on that both kids and adults will enjoy.
Encanto is another strong entry for the House of Mouse, and it’s an absolute triumph for the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s a celebration of family and Latino culture that will please audiences everywhere this Thanksgiving.
Encanto is in theaters November 24.