The Madrigal family have been blessed with supernatural gifts for a few generations. Each family member goes through a coming of age ceremony where they’re granted their gift by the omniscient power which seems to reside in a candle and also grants their house magical powers. The family member’s powers range from heightened hearing, super strength, healing, and…. nothing. Our protagonist Mirabel is the unlucky one, the one member of the Madrigal family since the gifts started being granted to not receive a gift.
Mirabel is a sweetheart, unfazed for the most part about her lack of a gift. In fact, the opening number of Encanto is Mirabel literally singing the praises of her family members and how incredible they and their gifts are. Whilst Mirabel doesn’t treat any of her family members any differently, the same cannot be said the other way and Mirabel is somewhat ostracised from the family as a result.
After her cousin Antonio’s birthday where he is granted his gift, Mirabel realises the house is losing it’s magic and the family members are losing their gifts. Along with her estranged uncle Bruno, Mirabel decides she’s going to fix things and get the magic back.
Mirabel’s grandmother (who I’ll call Abuela, as they do in the film) is easily the worst of all the Madrigal family. I get that she’s the matriarch and the plot of Encanto mostly stems from her being awful, but I just felt like there was nothing redeeming about her at all. She’s controlling, bossy and far too concerned with appearances. You don’t really see anything of her to make you warm to her or think that she might be a good person early on in the film, and so it’s hard to really care about her character. The focus is very much on Abuela’s negative personality traits, which is to the detriment of the plot.
Encanto is really visually spectacular. It’s wonderfully colourful and seems very authentic to it’s Columbian setting (from an outside perspective anyway). I believe the majority of the cast are Latinx also (please correct me if I’m wrong!), which helps the film feel very authentic. I loved how all of the members of the Madrigal family had a family resemblance but their character designs were so unique to them, and the characters themselves are really fun and it’s really cool to see them using their gifts.
Whilst Encanto is really visually appealing, that’s pretty much where the positives end for me.
The pacing of the film was just terrible, frankly. Far too much time was focussed on setting up the Madrigal home, explaining the history of the family and the gifts of each family member, that by the time the movie got into the crux of the plot there was barely any time to resolve matters so the ending feels incredibly rushed. The plot had a lot of potential but then just flatlined leaving the ending feeling anticlimactic and like things were resolved too easily given the lead up.
I also felt that for all her shortcomings, Abuela’s redemption was really disappointing. She got a second chance she perhaps didn’t deserve, and this feeling is largely in part due to her not really having much positive characterisation. By the time Encanto wraps up, she was very much still a villain in my mind and didn’t do much to endear me to her.
The songs are also largely forgettable, in my opinion. After I finished Encanto, I have thought approximately 0 times about any of the songs. I’m not sure I would even recognise one if I heard it. I know one is called ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ but when I think about it, I just get the tune of ‘Where You Are’ from Moana (understandably that’s more of a me problem than any actual similarities between the songs). Judging from the reaction of the internet, I’m definitely in a minority here, but for me this was one of Disney’s weakest soundtracks in a long time.
I did like Encanto, there is a lot to like about it but it did leave me feeling quite underwhelmed and frankly, given the hype I have seen about it on social media, a bit confused! What am I missing? Encanto is one of Disney’s weaker films and not one I’d rush to rewatch any time soon.