Maribel Madrigal, a member of the magical Madrigal family in Colombia, is the only Madrigal without powers, but soon discovers she’s the family’s only hope of saving their magic.
Encanto once again shows off the unlimited abilities of Disney’s animation team, already having a great year with Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca, as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda who has been everywhere this year, including In the Heights and Tick, Tick… Boom! One of the stars from the former, Stephanie Beatriz, delivers the (voice) performance of a lifetime as Mirabel, a role that feels written for her and she fits it beautifully. Her singing range is also wonderful and Mirabel is incredibly heartfelt as a protagonist. There’s one song in particular called “Waiting on a Miracle” in which her vocals, character arc and the emotion of the entire film especially hit hard. But the catchiness doesn’t stop there — although “The Family Madrigal” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” won’t reach the heights of other recent hits like “You’re Welcome” (Moana) or “Remember Me” (Coco), they’re still fun and the musical themes bring so much to the film. With that though, there are a few songs that aren’t as memorable. The animation is Disney’s most colorful yet, and it’s surreal to see them outdo themselves more than once this year but the shots of the Colombian scenery as well as the magic created in their home, an “Encanto”, is so beautiful it’ll invoke emotion just journeying through it. The story revolves around Maribel trying to fit in and find herself when the family’s dynamic is built on each one’s abilities and how they can contribute physically — but each of them is more than that under the surface. With this we also get a number of interesting examinations of Maribel’s connections with her parents, sisters, and Abuela. There are occasions, however, where the pace drags and you wonder where the story is going, but once you get there, it gets fun once again. The movie also continues Disney’s recent trend of ditching traditional villains for complex characters whose decisions conflict but are more complicated than that. While I wouldn’t put this in the same discussion as Coco, Moana or Zootopia, it’s a heartwarming and vibrant family film with strong cultural representation and themes and a lovely protagonist and animation style.