Disney animation feature film “Encanto” is quite predictable to the core, but it is fairly colorful enough to delight us. While it is not particularly fresh in terms of story and characters, this weakness is fortunately compensated by not only its distinctive cultural aspects but also a number of entertaining moments to be savored, and I assure you that its 99-minute running time will smoothly pass by during your viewing.
The story mainly revolves around Mirabel Madrigal (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), a plucky lass who has often been overshadowed by her very special family. Many years ago, her grandmother Alma (voiced by María Cecilia Botero), who is usually called “Abuela” (It means grandmother in Spanish, by the way). ran away from her hometown along with many other people including her husband when her hometown was attacked by a bunch of bad guys, but then they were unfortunately ambushed by those bad guys following after them, and that was when something unbelievable happened. When her husband courageously sacrificed himself for protecting her and others, a sort of miracle suddenly happened as a result, and that gave her and others a new place to live safely and peacefully during many following years.
In addition, through a candle imbued with some magical power at that point, Alma’s three children got each own special power later, and so did her grandchildren except Mirabel. As watching how her special family protected and helped many town people, young Mirabel certainly aspired to have her own special power during the upcoming ritual for her, but, alas, she somehow failed to get any special power to everyone’s disappointment, and she still feels rather inadequate as the only ordinary member in her family besides her younger cousin Antonio (voiced by Ravi-Cabot Conyers).
Nevertheless, as reflected by the first musical scene of the film, Mirabel still loves her family members besides being very proud of them, and their life is never boring as living together in a big house which is also full of magic power. In this magical house, Mirabel’s family members have each own special private place according to each own special power, and we later get a wonderful visual moment when Antonio comes to get his own private place shortly after acquiring his own special power on the day of his ritual.
While everyone around her is delighted by Antonio’s special power and private place, Mirabel feels sad and depressed for being the sole ordinary person in the family again, but then something strange happens to her. She sees a vision which disturbingly suggests a serious crisis for her family in the near future, but nobody listens to her growing concern, and that eventually prompts her to take care of this possibly serious matter for herself.
As investigating why a certain family member was vanished for no apparent reason, Mirabel goes through several precarious moments, and I was particularly amused by one certain scene where she has to go along a very tricky route to some dark cavernous spot once belonging to that certain family member. In addition, we also get some big musical moments from some of her family members who turn out to be not so perfect as they seem to be on the surface, and the songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is having one hell of productive year as involved in several notable films of this year besides his directorial debut work “tick, tick… BOOM!” (2021), are performed well with considerable energy and enthusiasm.
I must point out that the story is rather thin in addition to being rather artificial during its last act, but this thankfully remains as a minor problem because directors/co-writers Byron Howard and Jared Bush, who previously made “Zootopia” (2016) together, keep things rolling as constantly filling the screen with vivid cultural mood and ample personality. Although the overall result is relatively less impressive than “Coco” (2017), the film is buoyed by its own Latino American atmosphere and cultural details, and it also brings some life and personality to its many different main characters, who are basically more or less than broad stereotypes but are also depicted with each own individuality.
The voice cast members of the film are solid while having a fun with their respective parts. If you remember well her amusingly terse supporting turn in TV sitcom series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, you will be surprised by how Stephanie Beatriz can be quite perky and charming here in this film, and she also handles several key musical scenes well. In case of the other cast members, María Cecilia Botero functions as a good counterpoint to Beatriz’s lively voice acting, and Ravi-Cabot Conyers, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, and John Leguizamo are well-cast in their substantial supporting roles.
In conclusion, “Encanto” is a conventional product which simply did its job within its genre territory, and I enjoyed its good moments even though, instead of fully engaged in its story and characters, my mind was often distracted by the occasional thoughts on what I was going to write in this review. In short, this is another fine Disney animation film of this year along with “Raya and the Last Dragon” (2021) and “Luca” (2021), and its target audiences will surely appreciate its considerable mood, spirit, and energy.