The Movie Guru: Disney’s ‘Encanto’ a deeply emotional movie
The Movie Guru gives it three and a half stars
Have you ever felt like you weren’t as special as the rest of your family?
That’s how Mirabel feels in “Encanto,” Disney’s latest animated offering. The movie uses magic to tell a complicated story about family love, fear and how every piece is an important part of the greater whole. With beautiful visuals, fun songs and a dip into a culture we’ve never seen before, it’s an emotional experience you won’t forget.
The movie introduces is to the magical Madrigals, who live in an enchanted house in the mountains of Colombia. The house gives them all special powers and a special room of their very own, but somehow decided to pass Mirabel by completely.
She does everything she can to be a worthy member of the family, but things rarely work out the way she wants. When warning signs appear that suggest the family might be in danger however, everyone gets the chance to learn what it really means to truly be part of a family.
This is Disney’s first movie to explore the culture of South America, and the results are brilliantly colorful visuals with a rich, subtle array of details. While a lot of that involves fun stuff, like food or celebrations, Colombia’s traumatic history plays a vital role as well.
Though the movie doesn’t go into detail — it’s not more traumatic than some of the darker scenes in other movies — it affects the characters in profound ways. It’s an acknowledgment of how trauma affects real people just as profoundly, sometimes stretching down through generations.
The movie also touches on a more universal form of emotional trauma. Anyone who’s ever felt like a disappointment to a parental figure will be particularly affected by this movie, to the point that it might be hard to watch at times. Though the situation is resolved so beautifully I cried through the whole last 10 minutes, it was a tough journey to get there.
Still, there are some nice distractions. The enchanted house is charming and just as much a character as anyone else in the movie. Lin Manuel Miranda’s songs lean heavily into rap, but they’re all catchy and full of fun wordplay. There are plenty of humorous moments as well, all of them well integrated into the movie. This can be a fairly stressful movie at times, but it knows how to break the tension.
The ending is the best part, with a plot twist that may seem surprising at first but is actually carefully justified by the rest of the movie. There’s also a ton of emotional catharsis, enough that you’ll want to celebrate with the rest of the characters.
Who knows — you might even feel like part of the family.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.