The landscape of family movies has shifted slightly during the pandemic, as studios found more success with at-home streaming rather than the cinematic experience. Still, some things never change – namely, a number of big screen family blockbusters heading our way in the run up to Christmas.
Disney’s offering is Encanto, the 60th Walt Disney Animated Film. Set in Colombia, it centres around The Madrigals, a family who live in the mountains protected by a magical place known as Encanto. Each member of the family has a special gift, with the exception of Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz). The loss of purpose she feels becomes more urgent when the magic surrounding her home is in danger, and she becomes the only hope of saving it.
Because of the dearth of Latin stories in Disney canon, comparisons with 2017’s Coco will be inevitable. They are quite different films, but the main link is perhaps the attention to detail in terms of their respective cultures. Embracing Colombian tradition gives a vitality to the story that freshens up the Disney formula, which thankfully forgoes a lot of the cutesy gimmicks in favour of something a bit more wholesome. The songs are written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who continues his productive relationship with Disney even if the numbers don’t quite have the same punch as Moana.
Indeed, much of Encanto’s issues arrive when compared to what came before. It doesn’t quite have the emotional impact that’s now required in a post-Pixar world, which is an unfair bar but one that is inevitably set in the minds of viewers. For youngsters, there might be a lot going on but it’s all good fun. Beatriz’s Mirabel is not your standard Disney Princess, and there’s something in her flawed but sincere portrayal that is endearing. John Leguizamo is a highlight as Bruno, a member of the family who is turned away due to his ability to see the future.
Like this summer’s Luca, Encanto is a Disney film that delights without smashing expectations. It’s easy to forget that the target audience for this genre are simply interested in fun and wonder, something that this movie delivers in spades.
Encanto is in cinemas now.