Encanto: Enchanting musical feels manufactured by a committee

Review: Lin-Manuel Miranda pens lyrics for Disney’s latest magical sing-song

The story for Encanto is credited to six writers, but alas, there is no trace of adventure or hint of jeopardy

Film Title: Encanto

Director: Byron Howard, Jared Bush, and Charise Castro Smith

Starring: Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, María Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Wilmer Valderrama

Genre: Animation

Running Time: 99 min

Fri, Nov 26, 2021, 05:00

   

Encanto, the new animation from Disney, concerns the Madrigals, a family who live in an enchanted enclave in the mountains of Colombia. As each family member comes of age, they are granted a magical ability. Mother Madrigal can heal with her cooking; Isabella (Diane Guerrero) can make flowers bloom with a flick of her perfect hair. Luisa (Jessica Darrow) has remarkable biceps and can lift many donkeys, a piano and the local church. It’s a wonderful life for the superpowered dynasty, save for Mirabel (voiced by Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz), the only family member with no particular gift.

When the magic that powers the clan and their clattering, self-tidying home comes under threat, it falls to the ordinary Mirabel to save the day. But how? Well, we’re not entirely sure.

The narrative thrust and subplots are wholly reliant on Miranda’s lyrics

The story for Encanto is credited to six writers, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, and two screenwriters – Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith – so where is the plot, exactly? The voice cast is charming, the songs are playful, the colourful production design is eye-popping, and the sorcerous residence allows for lovely, old-school visuals. Issues of representation are sensitively handled with a sometimes bilingual cast capable of performing in both the English- and Spanish-language versions of the film.

There is, alas, no trace of adventure or hint of jeopardy. The narrative thrust and subplots are wholly reliant on Miranda’s lyrics, without which we’d be lucky to distinguish one character from another. There are qualities to admire here even if it always feels like a movie manufactured by a committee. Everyone is at the wheel of the bus and we get somewhere; it’s just not the magical place we were promised. 

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