Welcome to the Family Madrigal!
What’s the Story?
Deep in the mountains of Colombia there lives a magical family, the Madrigals! Chased from their home generations ago this family was blessed with a magic candle that never goes out. Now, when they come of age, each generation of Madrigal children is granted their own special gift by that candle. One can make flowers bloom out of thin air, one is super strong, one can control the weather and another can hear a pin drop from a mile away. Everyone has a gift, well, except for Mirabel. She never got a gift and while she loves her family, it can be hard being the only one who isn’t special. When Mirabel sees cracks spreading through the walls she might have just found her chance to show everyone what she’s really capable of. Can she work out what’s threatening her family’s magic before it tears them all apart?
I feel like I haven’t talked about a Disney film on this blog in a long while, the last film I reviewed was Frozen 2 all the way back in 2020. I have nothing against ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ or any of the recent Pixar films, but I just didn’t have anything to say about them. They’re all just the usual standard I expect from Disney, great animation, good voice cast and a heartfelt story. Raya had some issues but nothing that would have taken up a 1,000 word review. I wasn’t planning on reviewing this film either, but having finished watching it a couple of hours ago its still sat in my head. It could be the songs, I am a sucker for a good musical and this is a damn good musical.
Let’s start there. All the songs are catchy and had me bopping along, plus they all advance the plot/explore the characters as musical songs should. Then there’s the added bonus that the songs are all perfectly spread out throughout the film so it doesn’t feel like the film forgot it was a musical halfway through (I’m looking at you Frozen). I guess this is what happens when you have someone like Lin-Manuel Miranda writing your music. The guy’s so talented it is legitimately frustrating.
Also, I just want to take a moment to talk about the staging in this film because a lot of this feels like a Broadway production. Time freezing around Mirabel as she wanders off and sings her ‘I Want’ song. The dynamic visuals of Luisa’s song showing off all her fears in their full hallucinatory glory. In fact dynamic is the key word for this film, there’s so much energy and movement that you feel like the characters are just a second away from grabbing you and pulling you right up alongside them in the scene. Each song feels like an event and I love the way we transition into, through and out of them. I take my hat off to the animators and directors.
Enough about the music though, what about the actual characters? I have to say Mirabel has to be one of my favourite Disney leads in a few years. She’s completely adorable, full of energy and so easy to sympathise with. It’s not easy being the only ‘ordinary’ one in a family of super-talented people, not that I have any experience of that, I’m an only child, but the film makes you emphasise with Mirabel. I also like the fact that this doesn’t make Mirabel bitter, she loves her family, truly and deeply, she just wants to help out and know that she’s a part of things. I also give the film credit for showing that things aren’t exactly easy for her siblings either. Yes they have superpowers, but the pressure and expectations that puts on them isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
That’s what this film is about in the end, family and coming to understand one another. Across the film, Mirabel’s quest to find whatever it is that’s threatening the magic candle leads to her getting to know her family better and they get to know her. There’s no villain in this film, surprise or otherwise. There’s some antagonism sure and a few arguments, but what family doesn’t have those, and in the end everyone works through their issues and comes together. This film is also a good study of generational trauma and how the fears of one generation can get passed on down through the family. It’s not as good as say, Coco, but it’s a little extra seasoning to an already enjoyable story. There isn’t really much else to say other than if you haven’t already checked this film out then you need to. I’m happy to report that the Disney magic is alive and well.
In the end, Encanto, is a tremendous amount of fun. Full of colour and energy it’s got some great songs and striking visuals matched with a really likeable cast. Mirabel might just be one of the most sympathetic Disney leads I’ve seen in a while and her journey to save her family and getting to know them along the way is full of laughs and tears. Throw in Disney’s top notch animation and there really is no other word for this film than magic, so if you’re in the mood to get your foot tapping then just find your door and walk on it. Welcome to Encanto!
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.