Byron Howard, Jared Bush
Starring Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Maria Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero
After the success of Moana, Disney have teamed up once again with musical megastar Lin-Manuel Miranda for the 60th Walt Disney Animation production Encanto. This time, Miranda was musically involved from the start, and the nuance and charisma in vocals reassures that he and the studio are a good match.
Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) is the only member of her extraordinary family without a "gift". With her sister being super strong, her mother able to heal wounds with food and her aunt controlling the weather with her mood, you can understand her disappointment when she is not presented with a gift. And as you can imagine, the plot takes her on a journey for answers, though this time that journey stays rather close to home. This film is so much about family and acceptance that the majority of the time is spent either within the magical dancing house (did I mention that?) or just outside of it.
I am a traditionalist when it comes to Disney musicals; these films are at their best when there's a strong villain who belts out a number in the second act, and now I understand that Disney have stronger messages to put across but perhaps this would have benefitted from a Scar or Cruella De Vil. This formula is becoming fairly predictable, and the conclusion of Encanto in particular felt anti-climatic. That being said, everything. that's happening before our eyes and is being shot into our ears is joyous and vibrant.
Although perhaps not instant classics, all of the music provided by Miranda for this film is amazing. The We Don't Talk About Bruno sequence in particular was a favourite of mine, showing just how coruscating an animated musical number can be. The vocal performances all round are excellent, especially that of Stephanie Beatriz who adds layers to Mirabel to make her an even more empowering character. Her want for greatness and passion for her family feels relatable and loveable, she is such a charming lead.
An imaginative concept that will surely have younger viewers asking why their house can't dance to a beat, this fun, colourful, meaningful film will not be an instant Disney gem, but is definitely a gift worth watching.
Encanto available in cinemas now