Encanto (2021) Review
DISNEY Animation Studios' 60th feature film takes audiences to Colombia in a magical adventure which drops needless spectacle for meaningful extravagance as the weight of familial expectations ironically help carry Encanto to being one of Disney's best musicals in years.
Set in a small Colombian community, Encanto follows the Madrigal family who all possess magical powers from super strength to perfect poise. However, there is one Madrigal who is left powerless - Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). Mirabel's unknown reason for not inheriting the family gift leaves her disheartened and frustrated, but when the magic of Encanto begins weakening her family's powers, Mirabel must investigate as she quickly realises the Madrigal power is in her ordinary hands.
Vibrant energy exudes from Encanto as the South American setting lends itself to not only enriched cultural significance, but alluring and beautiful animation as well. Luscious landscapes enhance what is already a charming experience due to their ability to transition fluently with any situation or song. The animation department definitely had their working boots on in Disney's latest as each character bursts out of the screen and into audience's hearts thanks to their exquisite designs and absorbingly-unique personalities which, despite not having more time to dive into the psyche of other family members, are given adequate screentime to showcase their straight-forward abilities.
The main theme of Encanto is family; a more than acceptable theme considering the outstanding characters that make up the Madrigal clan. Being the only Madrigal without mystical powers, Mirabel is an outstanding lead who exists as an avatar for the audience to put themselves into the experience, but possesses an outgoing personality and meaningful connection to the plot to create pure moments of emotion which all feel earned. One of the best things about the rest of the family is that, despite possessing awe-inspiring powers, they are not defined by them as select members exclaim their true feelings through extraordinary songs that range from upbeat to doldrum. Standouts characters were Mirabel's sister Isabela (Diane Guerrero) who is blessed with the ability to create beauty, and Luisa (Jessica Darrow), who possess inhuman strength. Isabela and Luisa may differ in terms of their exterior, but are similar inside as both are struggling with the weight of expectations. Focusing on familial expectations was a direction I was not expecting out of Encanto, but in hindsight, tackling this subject matter was a genius idea that lends itself to a plethora of bittersweet moments revolving around the true meaning of family and that no one should be considered "less than" - even if their relatives are, in theory, better in every way imaginable - and that not all gifts are wanted.
An animated feature like Encanto is always a delight to uncover. Despite not being excited for this Disney film, it's hard to disagree that Encanto wasn't an absolute joy. The efforts of directors Jared, Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith explode onto the canvas that is Encanto as the energetic Madrigal family shine through catchy and spirited musical numbers, as well as an ending that defines the true meaning of family and the generational expectations set to be the best where, in reality, all you need to be is you; a beautifully-simple message that children and parents can both relate to.