Saturday, March 11, 2023

Review: Disney's "ENCANTO" Spins Its Own Special Magic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 12 of 2023 (No. 1901) by Leroy Douresseaux

Encanto (2021)
Running time:  102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some thematic elements and mild peril
DIRECTORS:  Jared Bush and Byron Howard with Charise Castro Smith (co-director)
WRITERS:  Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith; from a story by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith, Jason Hand, Nancy Kruse, and Lin-Manuel Miranda
PRODUCERS:  Clark Spencer and Yvett Merino
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Alessandro Jacomini, Daniel Rice, and Nathan Warner
EDITOR:  Jeremy Milton
ORIGINAL SONGS:  Lin-Manuel Miranda
COMPOSER:  Germaine Franco


Starring:  (voices) Stephanie Beatriz, MarĂ­a Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma, Rose Portillo, Alan Tudyk, and Noemi Josefina Flores

Encanto is a 2021 computer-animated fantasy film from directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard and produced Walt Disney Animation Studios.  It is the 60th animated feature film in the “Walt Disney Animated Classics” line.  Encanto focuses on a teenage girl who must deal with being the only member of her family without magical powers even as the family's magic begins to fade.

Encanto introduces Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), a teen girl who is part of the multi-generational "la familia Madrigal" (the Madrigal family).  Fifty years ago, her grandfather and grandmother, Pedro and Alma Madrigal (Maria Cecilia Botero), were forced to flee their home village in rural Columbia.  They took their infant triplets, Julieta, Pepa and Bruno, and escaped into the countryside, but their pursuers killed Pedro, but Alma had a candle that suddenly released magic and repelled the attackers.  The magic also created, “Casita,” a living or sentient house for Alma and her children.  The home is located in “Encanto,” a magical realm bordered by high mountains.  A village of newcomers now thrives under the candle's protection, shining its light from an upper room in the Madrigal home, “La Casa Madrigal.”

But all is not well.  The children and grandchildren of Abuela Alma were all granted magical gifts that each one uses to serve the villagers.  For instance, Mirabel's oldest sister, Isabela (Diane Guerrero), can make flowers grow anywhere, and her second oldest sister, Luisa (Jessica Darrow), has superhuman strength.  However, Mirabel did not receive any powers from the candle, and her Abuela Alma seems to act as if Mirabel is an obstacle in the way of the rest of the family.  Mirabel is almost as cursed as her mysterious uncle, Bruno (John Leguizamo), who disappeared years ago.  When Mirabel learns that her family members are losing their magic, she is determined to find out what is happening, although everyone else is in a state a denial about it.

I won't waste too much time telling you, dear readers, how beautiful Encanto looks.  That is standard for animated films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios.  The art direction yields beautiful sets and environments, and the costume designs results in colorful costumes that are dazzling, colorful, and imaginative.  The visual effects go off like fireworks, and it makes the magic seem … well, really magical.  Even the character design stands out, making Encanto one of the few mainstream American films set in Latin American or are Latino-themed that actually recognize that there are dark-skinned and black Latinos.  Not every Latino has light skin tones, light enough to front as white.

Encanto plays with notions of “magical realism,” a story that is realistic, but is infused with magic and the supernatural.  However, the world of Encanto barely looks realistic, as many animation films don't.  In fact, Encanto is one of the most magically-infused Disney films in years.

However, Encanto is like many Disney animated films – a coming of age film that focuses on the lead character, in this case, Mirabel.  The film's first dominant theme involves the struggle between tradition and change, the former embodied by Alma, who holds onto Madrigals' tradition of magic, and the latter by Mirabel, who clearly and correctly senses that something is wrong.  The second main theme is the conflict between family obligations and individual desires.  I think audiences will enjoy that, through Mirabel, Encanto shows that the family and the individual can work together for the benefit of everyone and each one.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's lively song score makes Encanto's narrative flow like an energetic stream, and the hit, “We Don't Talk About Bruno,” isn't the only excellent song.  Encanto stands out because it celebrates people overcoming suffering and life's trials and tribulations.  Also, one should take notice of the film's diversity and representation.  That makes Encanto stand out as special and as a place worth visiting time and again.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, March 9, 2023

2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino, and Clark Spencer); 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score” (Germaine Franco) and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Song” (Lin-Manuel Miranda-music and lyric for the song “Dos Oruguitas”)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Clark Spencer, Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Yvett Merino)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Motion Picture – Animated;” 2 nominations: “Best Original Score-Motion Picture” (Germaine Franco) and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Lin-Manuel Miranda for the song “Dos Oruguitas”)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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