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Monday, November 29, 2021

Review: Disney’s Encanto shines with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical brilliance, depth of character.

Three stars. PG rating. 1 hour 49 minutes. In theaters.

Mirabel Madrigal is an ordinary child in a magical family – a feeling that no doubt can be associated with many teenagers.

In the new Disney animated film, Encanto, a curly-haired Colombian girl with glasses suddenly finds it difficult to win her family’s approval as Madrigals pass alongside an important ritual for all young family members: the discovery of their unique powers, symbolized by the glowing door leading to the fantasy world (or, so to speak, into their bedroom).

Well, everyone except Mirabelle, who is voiced by Stephanie Beatrice (Detective Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine Nine). She has no magical ability, and everyone will be happy to remind her of this. Fortunately, Mirabelle is not a formulaic teenage outcast. She is a little strange and insecure, but at the same time funny, sensitive and stubborn, unlike the people in her village. This makes it the perfect setting for an epic family fairy tale with a surprisingly intimate atmosphere.

With typically gentle, moving music by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Surface Pressure” is destined to be a YouTube thug) and an unprecedented investment in South American characters and dialogues in Spanish, “Encanto” also represents another step forward for a company that has found success with different protagonists (see recent MCU, Star Wars, and Disney +). However, Encanto works because it is a universal fable of non-compliance with long-standing secrets, family quarrels and selfish myth-making.

With a warm, earthy color palette for a mountainous jungle setting, reminiscent of the island paradise in Moana, which also uses Miranda’s original music, and lovable character models, the film is a treat. His round-eyed appeal and lack of obvious stakes can feel glazed at times, but his supporting characters (all of which get an impressive amount of screen time and depth) seem more specific than most animated films.

The gorgeous, upbeat Isabella (Diane Guerrero) leaves behind a trail of intoxicating flowers wherever she goes. Louise (Jessica Darrow), on the other hand, has titanic strength (also read as “lesser femininity”) and uses it to contain all kinds of crises in her charming agricultural village.

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