“Encanto” Movie Review: Plenty Of Flash & Staying Power But No Staying Power

With the success of “Moana” and growing need/interest in diversity in their princess line/history, Disney has been trying to pass the cultural test with all possible flying colors by adapting every kind of hero and heroine for their animated feature films. With “Moana,” and “Raya and the last dragon,” it’s clear Disney is trying to put their own iconic magical spin on every possible fairy tale they can weave with new rising stars and storytellers to pave the way for future profits and programming. “Encanto” is a Columbian fantasy tale, scored through the genius musical mind of Lynn-Manual Miranda, who had already delivered substantial musical success for Disney with his work in “Moana” and “Mary Poppins Returns.” One always hopes lightning strikes more than once so let’s see if Disney has conjured up the right kind of magic once again.

In a humble village in Columbia, the centerpiece of the town (and the story) is the Madrigals family: a family blessed with a magical house that is not only alive and vibrantly energetic but also grants each new family member as they come of age with their own, unique mystical power. From super strength, weather manipulation, and shape-shifting, there’s something extra special about every member of the Madrigals family…except for Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). She’s the only one who never received a mystical gift and it has left her feeling disconnected and ignored by her magical-powered relatives. However, when a mysterious danger threatens to eliminate the magic from the Madrigals forever, Mirabel must find out what is causing the magic to disappear and save her family’s gifts before they are lost for all eternity.

The subject of family is no stranger to Disney’s usual go-to story focuses. Certain cultures and families have a greater emphasis on the importance of family and that is no different here. However, the strange thing about “Encanto” is that for as fantastical and family-focused as it is, the film seems to mix its signals on presenting family; often coming off sadder and head scratching than anything whimsical. Almost every plot twist, line of dialog, and the musical number has to revolve around why family is so important and how dedicated this particular family is to one another. And yet, Mirabel not only receives no magical gift she gets shunned and ignored by her family members simply because she is different from them; even from the figurehead of the family.

The prejudice towards Mirabel not only feels hurtful but also unnecessarily aggressive, even if that is the point/source of conflict for the character. The whole plot circles the looming threat of everyone losing their powers and that level of jeopardy feels a bit lacking when everyone is being an obnoxious pill towards Mirabel just because she’s different; even to the point you WANT them to end up powerless so they can see what Mirabel has been going through. The movie kinda spins its wheels around this central plot and doesn’t really leave room for much else outside of enjoying Miradna’s signature soundtrack works of art. The songs range from catchy to forgettable. They are well presented and beautifully packaged, but again, they all dance around the same issue with little variation, and even the tune pitches don’t change enough for me to say I can remember more than one song off top of my head after seeing it.

The catchiest song actually deals with the character of Bruno (voiced by John Leguizamo) who is treated even worse than Mirabel, and the more you find out the worse you feel for this character. I felt bad for him more so than anyone else in the rest of the family. Among all the beautiful colors, stunning visuals, and bouncing tunes; the film seems to mishandle its own message and sends conflicting morals about family connections that were handled far more elegantly and meaningfully in Pixar’s “Coco” then they were here. Even with a Disney film having an expected happily ever after, the cast never becomes likable or memorable enough to feel like the lessons have been learned or expressed in the right way; to us or the cast.

Overall, “Encanto” has a lot to like but not as much to love if you ask me. There’s plenty of flash and colorful music but no staying power, not during the film and certainly not after it. The message about the power of families feels disjointed and poorly arranged in a way that it contradicts itself and ends up painting the Madrigals as glorified jerks rather than a whimsical family to emulate and idolize. Once you get behind it all, there’s not much going on and at the end, the answers all seem so obvious you’re wondering why it took so long to learn the clear-cut message. But hey, at least it’s got great music.

I give “Encanto” 2 stars out of 4 stars.

The Encanto Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Is Now Available From Walt Disney Records

Available now from Walt Disney Records, the Encanto Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Encanto Original Motion Picture Soundtrack features eight original songs by Tony®- and Grammy®-winning songwriter/composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton,” “Moana) with original score by award-winning composer Germaine Franco (Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Little,” “Tag).   The soundtrack also features Colombia, Mi Encanto by Carlos Vives and Sebastián Yatra performs the original song Dos Oruguitas” in Spanish in the film, as well as the English language version of the song, in the end-credits. The physical soundtrack will be available on Dec. 17. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto opens in Australian cinemas on December 2, 2021.

On diving into the music of the Colombian-set story, Miranda said A lot of the rhythms are familiar to me, but the instrumentation and orchestration are different and often unique to Colombia.  One of the most fun things is that the accordion is so central to the music. It was really a joy immersing myself in artists I didnt know and doing deeper dives into those Ive grown up lovinglike Carlos Vives, who were lucky enough to work with on this movie. This entire process has been about falling in love with Colombian music and culture and getting to play in that space.

Miranda wrote and produced eight original songs for Encanto. Mike Elizondo (“96,000” from In The Heights,” “My Shot (Rise Up Remix) from The Hamilton Mixtape) co-produced the songs. I hope audiences come away singing these songs just like so many classic Disney movies, said Elizondo. There are so many positive messages about family and our relationships to one another. I also hope they realize how much variety there is in Colombian music. I learned so much about their rhythms and styles during the production process and I hope the audience can use the soundtrack as a gateway to discover Colombian music.

The Encanto Original Motion Picture Soundtrack features eight original songs and a full original score, plus one reprise and one end-credit version of a song from the film. The digital version of the soundtrack also includes instrumental versions of the songs. 

Award-winning composer Germaine Franco is behind the original score for Encanto. Franco worked closely with filmmakers and Miranda to create a signature score that complemented the songs and story.

Commenting on the score, Franco said, Collaborating with Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Charise Castro Smith, and Yvett Merino was a dream!  We created new textures and sonorities, using traditional Colombian instruments such as tiples, bandolas, cununos, marimba de chonta, arpa llanera from Latin America mixed with orchestra. The sound of the score is infused with many Colombian rhythmic styles including bambuco, mapalé, cumbia, and joropo. The score weaves in and out of the beautiful songs of Lin-Manuel Miranda. I hope that the musical imagery of the score evokes the resonant landscape of Colombia, the tenacity of our lead character, Mirabel, the strength of family, and our shared humanity.

Encanto is directed by Jared Bush (co-director Zootopia) and Byron Howard (Zootopia,” “Tangled), co-directed by Charise Castro Smith (writer The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez) and produced by Yvett Merino, p.g.a., and Clark Spencer, p.g.a.  Castro Smith and Bush are screenwriters on the film.

In the film, the magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift from super strength to the power to healevery child except one, Mirabel. But when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, Mirabel decides that she, the only ordinary Madrigal, might just be her exceptional familys last hope. The voice cast includes Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, Wilmer Valderrama, Adassa, Diane Guerrero, Mauro Castillo, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Rhenzy Feliz and Carolina Gaitán. 

You can watch the Music Featurette below:

The Trailer For Walt Disney’s “Encanto” Is Officially Here

Walt Disney Animation Studios shared a new trailer and poster this morning showcasing its upcoming feature film Encanto. The film tells the tale of the Madrigals, an extraordinary family who live in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. Each child has been blessed with a magic gift unique to themeach child except Mirabel. But when the familys home is threatened, Mirabel may be their only hope.

Also revealed this morningactor John Leguizamo (Critical Thinking,” “Ice Age) joins the voice cast. I was so pumped to be asked to the party, said Leguizamo. Lin-Manuel [Miranda] wrote me a rap, and I flipped out! Plus, this is such a beautiful story set in Colombia. It’s a first in so many ways. The magic is enchanting, the comedy is so sharp, and the world created is irresistible.

Leguizamo lends his voice to Bruno, Mirabels uncle whos gifted with the ability to see the future. Brunos honest, often doomsaying predictions arent always well received by the rest of the family, so he disappeared long ago, becoming the uncle no one talks about. Bruno is so compelling because he is that guy that never quite fits in, said Leguizamo. He’s an outsider, but he also understands the world better because he’s always wanted to belong to it.

The voice cast also includes Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel; María Cecilia Botero as Mirabels grandmother Alma aka Abuela; Angie Cepeda and Wilmer Valderrama as Mirabels parents, Julieta and Agustín;  and Diane Guererro and Jessica Darrow as Mirabels sisters, Isabela and Luisa. Also lending their voices are Carolina Gaitán and Mauro Castillo as Mirabels aunt and uncle, Pepa and Félix; and Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz and Ravi Cabot-Conyers as Mirabels cousins Dolores, Camilo and Antonio, respectively.

The film features all-new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton,” “Moana) and is directed by Byron Howard (Zootopia,” “Tangled) and Jared Bush (co-director Zootopia), co-directed by Charise Castro Smith (writer The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez) and produced by Clark Spencer and Yvett Merino. Bush and Castro Smith are screenwriters on the film. The filmmakers were deeply inspired by their research trip to Colombia during the early development of Encanto, as well as their continuous work with a group of expert consultants assembled through the course of the films production. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto opens in Australian cinemas on December 2, 2021.

Check out the trailer below: