VOD film review: Encanto
Katherine McLaughlin | On 24, Dec 2021
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitán, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama
Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Rosa Diaz) turns in an absolutely charming and witty performance in this vibrant, Colombian-set Disney animation. With toe-tappingly good songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s a musical that zips along at a fast pace as it introduces multiple generations of the Madrigal family who each possess a magical gift and live in an enchanted house. Beatriz plays Mirabel Madrigal, an adorably awkward outsider in her own home, as she is the only member of the family who doesn’t have a super power. But her compassion and curiosity propel her on a journey of discovery in a film that confidently presents themes of reimagining the world anew and rebuilding it after tragedy and disaster.
The opening song, The Family Madrigal, introduces the brood with gusto and humour, while whisking the viewer around the small and bustling mountain village where Mirabel lives. Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero) is the matriarch of the family, Julieta (Angie Cepeda), Mirabel’s mum, is the town doctor who can heal with her cooking, Luisa (Jessica Darrow) possesses super human strength, Pepa (Carolina Gaitan) can control the weather, her daughter, Dolores (Adassa), has super hearing and her son, Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz), is a shapeshifter. The youngest of the clan, Antonio (Ravi Cabot-Conyers), can speak to animals.
Maribel’s perfect sister can bloom beautiful flowers on a whim and is voiced by Orange Is the New Black’s Diane Guerrero; their dynamic is delightfully handled giving off heart-warming Frozen vibes. John Leguizamo also appears as estranged family member, Bruno, with one of his scenes an extraordinary crafted chase sequence that shows off the intricately detailed design of the house. With each super power comes an accompanying set-piece so the film can occasionally feel a little over-stuffed, and with so many characters to become acquainted with, some don’t get enough screen-time. Even the house, Casita, gets a tune, expressing itself through movement, and acting as a reliable best friend to Maribel, who calls on it for help and advice.
The dazzling craftsmanship on display in every aspect of the film – from the songs and screenplay to the glowing animation and talented voice cast – makes Encanto a feel-good hit that delivers a hefty emotional wallop when you least expect it. The story may seem simple on the surface but, as its multiple layers unfold in vivacious fashion, underneath it all is a film that excavates the past and pushes aside fear of change as a way to prepare for an unpredictable future. Tissues at the ready!