Encanto (Jared Bush/Byron Howard/Charise Castro Smith, 2021, USA)

Encanto is the latest Disney animated musical, coming from the team behind Zootopia. Rounding out the creative team is Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative force behind the musicals In the Heights and Hamilton. Miranda's fingerprints have been all over everything as of late, and his distinct blend of singing and rapping is very much present in the score of Encanto. The film tells the story of a multigenerational Colombian family, the Madrigals, who all have a magical gift that helps the community where they live. Our entry point into this world is Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), who is uniquely lacking a gift in the family. Eventually, she finds out that the family's gifts are beginning to weaken, and she must solve the issue by connecting with her mysterious family member Bruno - voiced by John Leguizamo.

Encanto is unique in the Disney universe for not having an overt antagonist in the film. The closest figure who comes to an antagonist is Alma Madrigal, the film's matriarch. We think that Bruno might be an antagonist, but it is clear very early on in the film that he is a misunderstood outsider character. This creates an interesting dynamic in the film, which is effectively about the burden of intergenerational trauma. The entire film looks inward, and most of the action comes from the imagined landscapes of the family members. The animation here is top-notch, and details such as hair are rendered at an incredible level of detail. While there is no song here that stands out on the level of "Let it Go" from Frozen, the songs are generally of a high caliber and there are two highlights - "Surface Pressure" and "We Don't Talk About Bruno." Overall, Encanto is a very enjoyable if somewhat underdeveloped effort from the Mouse House, but many kids and parents will enjoy it.



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