Ahhhh. That’s better. Over the course of 2021, Disney have had some success releasing their animated movies on their streaming platform with Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca. Both of those movies were decent, receiving mostly positive reviews from critics, whilst the latter encouraged more mixed reviews from general audiences. In my opinion, both of those movies were decent. I gave both of them 4 Qs here, and Disney proved they still have the ‘it’ factor with both of them. However, this one hit differently. In a good way.
Encanto is set in Latin America (in what we can presume to be Colombia), and tells the tale of a family who have been blessed with a “miracle”. In other words, each member of the Madrigal family has a super power unique specifically to each individual. They live in a huge, mystical house which they name their ‘encanto’, but one member of the family isn’t quite so lucky. Our heroine, Mirabel, finds herself not blessed with any power, bringing shame on her abuela, Alma. When Mirabel discovers that the magic surrounding her family is in danger however, she takes it upon herself to save life as they know it.
I am prepared to fight you on this: Encanto is the best Disney movie since Coco. Yeah, Soul was good. This is better. I get it: people adored Soul. The thing is, that movie came at a time (prime pandemic) in which people needed it. Yes, it’s a really good movie. But which am I looking forward more to re-watching? Of course this is a matter of person opinion, and my opinion is that this movie is absolutely the more joyful.
For some reason, Disney don’t seem to be promoting this movie all that much in the UK. Sure, I’ve seen the obligatory advert on the side of the bus, but that’s about it. I’ve not seen a trailer, the cinema I go to didn’t even have a poster for it, and it only had two screenings on the day I saw it despite being shown in large cineplex with 14 screens. Because of this, I had no idea what it was about, and I can truly say that I loved every second of it.
Firstly, the visuals are fantastic. I’m not sure how Disney manage to outdo their own animation every time, but they’ve done it again; this thing erupts in colour and excitement and delight from the very first note. One thing I always look out for is the way the hair looks, and once again (duh) it’s fabulous. What struck me most about Encanto though (aside from the striking colouring) was the way the clothing moved. Mirabel’s skirt swishing around like that had no right to be as beautiful as it was, yet here we are. Just glorious.
Secondly, critics seem to be unimpressed with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original songs here, but I couldn’t disagree with them more. The opening number (“The Family Madrigal”, below) will be stuck in my head for days now, and Lin’s signature tells ring true throughout each song, it’s just that they now come with a Disneyfied twist. It’s as good as any other music he’s written for film, without a doubt.
Finally, the story and the message behind it? Purely joyous. Its plot exudes radiance and love, and that’s something that has been missing for me with some of Disney’s more recent movies. There are a lot of kids who will need this film and there are a lot of kids out there who will feel like Mirabel. If you’ve ever felt like you’re not that special or like you’re an outsider… you might just cry at the end like I did.
Not only did I love this movie, but it made me really want a plate full of arepas so… bear with me whilst I go and learn the recipe for arepa dough.
Encanto is currently available in some UK cinemas, but the good news is that it will be available to stream from December 24th on Disney+.
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