Film Review – Encanto (2021)

It’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s world and we are just living in it – and, frankly, we couldn’t be happier. The 41-year-old, New York-born has become something of a revelation in the few years as he has conquered both the theatre and the film worlds, merging the two in many ways that would see the genres propelled back to the kind of popularity that had seen it thrive decades before. His work on Hamilton has already put his name in theatre folklore forever more but his charismatic, unique storytelling with its eclectic mix of music had Hollywood calling pretty quickly, most notably The House of Mouse. Moana, Mary Poppins Returns, and Star Wars (although the latter two were more acting calls) quickly formed Miranda’s filmography but 2021 is the year where he moves into the Premier League of Hollywood royalty and Encanto, the charming, magical new original animation from Disney, is the cherry on top of the proverbial cake.

Welcome to the Family Madrigal, an ever-expanding clan that has been bestowed with a magical spell since they were run out of their home for being refugees but who have been saved by the otherworldly spells. Whether weather changing, flower-growing, shapeshifting, super-strength, or healing powers, every family member has been imbued with something extra special, except for Mirabel (the spectacular Stephanie Beatriz) who was somehow missed out. However, when the magic spell threatens to disappear forever, it might be only Mirabel who has the answer as to how to fix it – and her family.

If the aforementioned contribution of Miranda wasn’t enough to get you excited by Encanto then you’ll be hugely pleased to find that this is one of the Mouse’s most wonderful efforts of its modern offerings – in good company, for sure – and will leave you with the biggest smile on your face on its conclusion. Expressive and expansive, you’re fully immersed in the Colombian landscapes that surround you, pulsing with the typical vibrancy and energy that you would expect, bursting with colour from every seam of the film as we glide through its colourful backdrops.

As it is fuelled with the amazements that come from animation, so is it imbued with a fanciful yet reflective and important story about family and our place in our own. None of us are perfect and, if you live in a family with multiple siblings, none of you will be anything like the other but pressures exist and hamper our connection to each other. Directors Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and co-writers Charise Castro Smith, Nancy Kruse et al infuse the film with these insecurities and eccentricities – as well as the inevitable and figurative cracks that begin to form – of such family dynamics while Miranda’s beautifully intoxicating music supports it with it rhythmic whimsy with “The Family Madrigal” being the film’s standout toe-tapper.

It’s been a pretty successful year for family animation despite all of the real-world problems surrounding the film industry, and Encanto joins Raya & The Last Dragon, Luca, The Mitchell Vs. The Machines and Soul are one of the strongest array of efforts for a long time. However, if there is to be a champ, it this one – just – stemming from the energy and flamboyance of Miranda’s songs and its story of family, something we have all leaned on a lot more in the last 18 months and this feels very much like a celebration of the strange dynamics that define us and our brood.

★★★★1/2


Animation, Musical | Cert: PG | Walt Disney Animation Studios | Cinemas, 24 November 2021 | Dir. Jared Bush, Byron Howard | Featuring the voices of Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Diane Guerrero, Wilder Valderamma, María Cecilia Botero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda