As my daughter quickly approaches turning 18, I have found it much harder to see animated or family movies in the theater. I loath the idea of being the 40-year-old guy sitting alone in a kid’s movie. However, circumstances warranted that I put those feelings of social anxiety aside, and watch Disney’s Encanto (2021) – and I am very glad that I did.
This gorgeously drawn fantasy focuses on the family Madrigals – specifically Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) – the first one in the family to not be given a magical gift since her Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) first received the miracle that birthed the Encanto. Now, Mirabel believes the magic that protects her family and the many people in the Encanto is threatened, so she seeks to find answers and protect those she loves in the process.
No surprise at this point, but the voice cast in this film is excellent. Beatriz has been a great cinematic joy this year as I was only familiar with her from Brooklyn 99, where I love her character Rosa – but I had no idea the range Beatriz was capable of. With In the Heights (2021) and now Encanto, I am excited to see what else she does. I am usually on board for John Leguizamo, and I specifically like when a film utilizes his comedic charms. As Mirabel’s uncle Bruno, he excels and adds some of my favorite moments in this film.
The themes centering around family often work for me, especially when one member feels like an outcast and is fighting to find their role within the family dynamics. Mix in great-looking animation and design with some great musical numbers, and I am sold. The opening musical number where Mirabel sings about the family and their various gift,s as she tells both the townspeople and us the role-call, works so well as both exposition and an entertaining musical number.
If you like Disney animated movies, then you should rush out to see Encanto. The music, the art, and the characters in this film make it an underrated standout. It will also be similar to Moana in that it will have me cycling through the soundtrack more often than I find myself doing with musicals. I really enjoyed Encanto and some of the narrative choices the film makes, earning it the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.