Disney animated movies are seen by some with rose-colored glasses, including this critic. But "Encanto" surprised me in all sorts of ways.
Co-directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith, Disney's latest animated movie is a visually pleasing, well-acted festivity. But ultimately, narrative choices fall to a steep level of disappointment.
Disney's Encanto | Official Trailer youtu.be
"Encanto" explores complicated relationships within families: how sometimes it's hard to be heard amongst loved ones and how difficult it can be to live up to expectations. The Madrigal family members have gifts like super strength, shapeshifting or healing that help their neighbors living in a small Colombian town. The large family receives these extraordinary abilities from a candle their matriarch, Abuela, receives while fleeing unrest decades prior to the story in "Encanto." Well, all except Maribel, whose gift ceremony goes horribly wrong.
But when the magic is in danger, the only "ordinary" Madrigal might be their only hope.
The film stars Stephanie Beatriz, Maria Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow and Angie Cepeda, to name a few. All actors do a great job with their roles in this film. But the standout feature of "Encanto" was its eye-popping, colorful animation. Details like the tiniest grains of sand to tiles on the floor are so detailed that they shimmer as the sun perfectly shines on them.
Other than the visuals, the rest of the film was OK
The music is surprisingly weak for something from Lin-Manuel Miranda. The first song was the best in the entire movie, which sets up a perfect introduction to each of the Madrigals and their powers. Then as the film continues, the songs become less memorable albeit diverse in Latin American influence.
And narratively, it's understandable the message that writers try to deliver, but some of the decisions in the final act are questionable. After sharing this film about being one's own "extraordinary" self within an overwhelming family, the ending feels like it contradicts itself. Maybe the writing room was too crowded with eight writing credits, so the story ideas became scattered and unfocused.
To prove the point, when an antagonist is introduced they feel suddenly thrown in. The plot breadcrumbs throughout the journey aren't strong enough to make the hidden antagonist believable. Instead, it feels like writers threw the bad guy in because the kids movie needed a bad guy – which it absolutely didn't.
Overall, the film is still enjoyable to watch with the inviting visuals. But it feels rather hollow compared to other past Disney movies that similarly touch on complex family matters.
"Encanto" opens in theaters Wednesday, November 24, 2021. Follow the reporter Samantha Incorvaia on Twitter at @s_incorvaia and follow her podcast Plot Devices.