• 08 Jan - 14 Jan, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

This musical, boasting a lively voice cast and original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has been promoted as the 60th “canonical” film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. But however well-meaning, this milestone movie could almost represent a creative crisis for Disney. There are some nice moments and sweet show tunes, but Encanto feels like it is aspiring to exactly that sort of bland frictionless perfection that the film itself is solemnly preaching against, with a contrived storyline that wants to have its metaphorical cake and eat it.

Our heroine is Mirabel Madrigal: a smart, introspective, bespectacled teen living with her extended family in a magic house with a mind of its own in an idyllic village in a magically created valley somewhere in Colombia.

Mirabel’s grandma is the formidable matriarch Abuela, who lost her husband many years ago, and for whom this magical house was mysteriously created at the time, apparently rising up in defiance of this great sadness. And all of her children and grandchildren turn out each to have a magic power, of which Abuela is intensely proud.

But wait. There is one person who doesn’t have a gift and that is poor Mirabel herself. Yet when a sudden, terrible crisis occurs and all the members of the Madrigal family look like losing their powers, it is Mirabel who must step up and save everyone and everything – by tracking down the family’s missing uncle Bruno whose own gift of prophecy allowed him to foresee this awful eventuality and Mirabel’s own part in the fightback. And maybe this family of fanatical overachievers need to see how their supernatural superiority is a neurotic group symptom of unhappiness. Maybe they need humble Mirabel to bring them to a new enlightenment.

So, are their gifts a good thing or a bad thing? They didn’t seem like such a bad thing in the film’s opening two acts: these gifts seemed to be part of everyone’s innocent well-being, abilities lightly and modestly worn. And as the rescuing of these powers is the plot motivation, it is an uncomfortable turnaround for these powers to be represented as something to be opposed or surmounted especially as we get a pretty broad hint that they may in any case be magically restored. This is a flavourless, unsatisfying film.