Director: Jared Bush & Byron Howard
Starring: (voices of) Stephanie Beatriz, Maria Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama
Run Time: 102 mins
Encanto represents quite the milestone in that is the 60th film in Disney’s original animated canon. This milestone film follows heroine Mirabel Madrigal, an intelligent and sympathetic young woman living with her family in a magical protected enclave in rural Colombia. The matriarch of the family, Abuela was the first of the family to be bestowed with powers and the magical house was created at the same time as she lost her husband. Each of her children and grandchildren each have a magical power and when they are young, the community gather together in a ceremony where the child puts their hand on a door of the enchanted house which gifts them their skill. Mirabel is the only member of the family to have not been gifted and she lives her life with her family as an outsider and not knowing what to make of her life. As is customary with a film of this type, a crisis occurs and it is up to Mirabel to restore order to the family. Boasting songs penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda (does he ever take a break?!) and its Colombian setting, this sounds like the perfect and diverse recipe for a tentpole Disney release.
Unfortunately, Encanto is a rare misfire from Disney and lacks the charm of the vast majority of their back catalogue. This is a cynical film that very much feels like a committee effort rather than a film crew, feeling like a box-ticking exercise that doesn’t take any risks. The film squanders its Colombian setting and fails to explore or acknowledge the culture – Encanto could be set anywhere in the world and it wouldn’t matter.
The main failure of the film is the fact that it lacks a core narrative. There are various subplots that pull the film in different directions, which make it difficult to invest in as it never settles on one through-line tale. The best Disney films boast coherent simplistic stories that lay out the parameters of the world they exist in and fully explore and build upon their setting.
Encanto is stuffed with musical numbers but unfortunately, the songs aren’t catchy and the lyrics are uninspired, repetitive and frequently baffling. It seems as if Lin-Manuel Miranda is behind every musical at the moment and has a very impressive output of work but the quality just isn’t here. Characters burst into musical rapture at inopportune times about trivial things and this gets grating very quickly. Miranda needs to take a break before he becomes a caricature of himself.
It’s a shame that this tentpole feature from the revered studio is a disappointment, especially considering the promise of the premise. Encanto is ultimately a half-baked and cloying effort from Disney that lacks an inspirational message and a succinct narrative. Its absence of an identity means I’ll likely forget about it in five minutes.