Once is just an honest to goodness surprise, but twice is a legitimate pattern…
It’s been hard to keep track these days given all the mergers and studio purchases to know what animated film belongs to what studio but when the name “Disney” comes up…you know you’re getting quality.
This might be a proverbial “hot take” but Disney’s Encanto just might be the best animated feature to come out of the woodwork this year as the studio is simply crushing the pandemic era when it comes to animated cinema as it an airy delight that will put a song in your heart and a spring in your step.
The Madrigals live hidden in the mountains of Colombia, in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift from super strength to the power to heal—every child except one, Mirabel (voice of Stephanie Beatriz). But when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, Mirabel decides that she, the only ordinary Madrigal, might just be her exceptional family’s last hope.
While this film is bound to draw comparisons to Coco from a few years back (which is warranted) this film is its superior in every way thanks to strong character work in concert with the vibrant animation and the superior musical numbers.
Having a movie with three directors honestly shouldn’t be this good but because they were also the screenwriters there was an unmistakable clarity of vision in this film and fueled by its music this film unquestionably has had more heart than a myriad of animated classics that have come before it.
With its lush visuals and crisp pacing, even when the film gets a little dark it never for a second gets drab in any way as it wraps us up into a high tier fantasy world that reminds us why we go to the movies in the first place. It is delight filled spectacle from minute one that lets us feel like we are floating in another world while occasionally giving us some real world gravitas and emotional resonance at the same time and it all plays as culturally relevant and at least accurate without trying to feel like it is pandering in anyway.
It’s ultimately pretty rare to get something that is so earnest and sweet while not sending audiences into diabetic shock at the same time. It knows and actively transcends all active age groups and becomes a piece of genuine cinema that feels culturally relevant as well as accurate.
This films charm really comes through in its leading vocal performance. While most audiences know Stephanie Beatriz from her iconic turn on Brooklyn Nine Nine, she’s no stranger to the musical having appeared in In The Heights from earlier this year and is an absolute powerhouse as our tortured Mirabel who so desperately wants to be a part of the family and their special powers. She embodies the reliability of emotion in epic teenage angst for trying to find her place in the world while never losing her sense of logic and can do attitude in aid of her family. On and off camera, there’s no doubt that she can command the frame and carry any kind of story that she wants as a talent.
And while there’s a cavalcade of other exceptionally strong voice performances the only other real stand out is probably John Leguizamo as the family’s misunderstood uncle.
At the end of the day, Disney’s Encanto is a reminder in these divided times of the strength that comes from family and it deserves to be watched again and again by audiences of all ages as it finds genuine emotional magic just through the sheer art of entertainment. It’s simple yet exceptionally high art on the screen.
Our countdown to the Broadway launch of this movie as a stage play in 2025 begins now…