I didn’t intend to be known as a Lin-Manuel Miranda movie reviewer, but I’d gladly take on that role with his current track record of cinematic contributions.
I watched ‘Encanto’ for the first time on Christmas Day, via Disney+. I’ve now watched it a second time on New Years Eve, because I’ve been singing and humming the music non-stop since. The soundtrack to this film, all written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is extremely catchy and, for the most part, wonderfully uplifting, with its opening number ’The Family Madrigal’ being the one that you’ll be still be singing long after the end credits.
In said song, we’re introduced to the Madrigal’s, a family each gifted with different magical powers from an enchanted candle in their family home, all from the point of view of 15 year-old Mirabel, the only member of the family who didn’t receive the special gift. While there’s no strict “villain” in the film, the tension arises all from within the family – the magic begins to weaken and Mirabel, already dealing with the huge expectations thrust upon her, embarks on a journey to save the miracle, to save (and be accepted by) her family.
Mirabel is voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, in a role that is vastly different to her most notable portrayal of Rosa from FOX/NBC’s ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. I knew she had a great singing voice from her work in another musical from this year, ‘In the Heights’ (also with Lin-Manuel Miranda, I’m not obsessed, I swear) but she excels here with a diverse array of tones through-out her many songs, on top of a fantastic performance in playing Mirabel in the more emotional scenes and comical moments.
Speaking of, the humour through-out the film doesn’t fall into the somewhat common Disney trap of feeling forced or too skewed for the younger audiences. There are some genuine, laugh out loud, surprise moments in ‘Encanto’, which are all aided by the plentiful supporting cast of other Madrigal family members. All different personalities, all different powers, all lending their own unique aesthetic to the films long list of highlights.
As far as messages and morals go – this is a Disney film after all – it’s very evident the intended moral with ‘Encanto’ is that “no family is perfect, even a magical one”, which it certainly achieves in a very positive way, however I do feel as though there are a few missteps towards the climax of the film, leading to some mixed messages. For example, and I will avoid spoilers here, there’s a point in the narrative which is clearly meant to give off a sense of community and the coming together of the locals, but instead I feel it conveys quite a dated message about wealth and those in a position of privilege continuing to rely on others to maintain their wealth and status quo.
That’s not to say the film is bad by any means. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve watched it twice and listened to the soundtrack numerous times. If you’re having doubts about whether you’d like this movie or not, I’d suggest listening to just three songs from the soundtrack and then make your decision. Those three are ‘The Family Madrigal’, ‘Surface Pressure’ and ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – all of which come from the first half of the film and are such well written, well orchestrated and well performed pieces that you too will be humming the beats without realising hours later (and by then, you may as well watch the film to go with it!).
If you’re fan of Disney’s animated movies, a fan of musicals or looking for a nice, wholesome and heartwarming movie, I cannot suggest ‘Encanto’ enough.
‘Encanto’ is now streaming on Disney+.