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The Hollywood Insider Encanto Review

Photo: ‘Encanto’

The Madrigal clan features a family of unique and amazing skills – Luisa who has bionic strength, Isabela who makes flowers grow, Pepa whose mood determines the weather, and yet, Mirabel, has no magic in her blood. 

Mirabel fits a demographic of our favorite Disney heroines, the outsider who is different and yet finds a way to persevere, like Moana and Elsa. And just as her alma matters, Mirabel has to save their family and home when the foundation of their family is threatened by a magical curse. Despite her lack of magic, she does not want to watch the ones she loves lose their powers. 

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What To Love About ‘Encanto’

The movie is set in the mountains of Colombia, very accurately representing the beautiful landscape and history of the country. The musical covers and soundtrack complement this perfectly, they were all written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his legacy for historically and culturally accurate works of art. It is heavily salsa-influenced and some of his songs like, ‘Don’t Talk About Bruno,’ get stuck in your head for days. Most memorable from the soundtrack, which could have been a bit more creative, was the Carlos Vives version of ‘Colombia, Mi Encanto.’ 

Cast and Crew of  ‘Encanto’

The voice cast is the most impressive by far, with actors Carolina Gaitan (Pepa Madrigal), Rhenzy Feliz (Camilo Madrigal), Ravi Cabot-Conyers (Antonio), Wilmer Valderrama (Agustin), and Mauro Castillo (Felix Madrigal). Major pop artists like Maluma and Adassa also make appearances as various fun, singing characters. Olga Merediz, an alum from Lin Manuel Miranda’s ‘In the Heights,’ also wows with her singing voice for Abuela. 

Producers include Nathan Curtis, Jennifer Lee, Yvett Merino, Brad Simonsen, and Clark Spencer. We’re grateful that the writers and directors however are people of color that can intimately relate to the story being told and therefore tell it in the most accurate and representative way possible. 

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Cultural Accuracy Of ‘Encanto’ 

The depth of the story lies in the culturally specific generational trauma and history that directors are keen to include. Latin communities have continually been displaced and forced to leave their homes amidst colonization and colonialism. Abuela Alma, the leader of the family, constantly repeats that they cannot lose their home, referencing her past experiences where “unknown forces” took her from her place of rest. While unexpected, the accuracy and representation were appreciated by Latin audiences who got to see glimpses of their difficult experiences on the big screen and most importantly, on a Disney film.  

The various skin tones, hair textures, and physical representations are other great testaments to the film’s success and quality. Despite all the characters primarily being from the same family, they all looked different and beautiful in their own ways. There were also lots of accurate Colombian culture aspects like the fashion which featured ponchos, flowy skirts with embroidered designs, and equally colorful dresses. Even guayaberas were included, a garment with roots in Latin America. 

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Inspiration For ‘Encanto’

The directors, Jared Bush and Byron Howard both worked on ‘Zootopia’ and were familiar with how to create an endearing and exciting main character that always tries to do the right thing. Co-directing with them is Charise Castro Smith from ‘Raya and the Last Dragon,’ who funnily looks quite a lot like the main character, Mirabel. 

Something to note is the lack of archetypical villains in this Disney movie. The unlikely decision worked in favor of the power of the story, creating an ominous overarching threat that haunts the family and their home. It mirrors the above sentiments about the film and its emphasis on the displacement Latin communities experienced. The minimal conflict also allows for great character growth and development. Mirabel spends many of the movie’s minutes learning about her strengths and what she can accomplish, even without the power everyone else in her family seems to possess. 

Signature Disney Animation and Design 

The lack of intense action also allows for the impressive animation and design to shine through. The house is intelligently used as a gateway to the different worlds that Mirabel and the other magicians explored. The musical sequences also greatly parallel the artistic freedom that the creators took – very abstract and creative. 

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Stephanie Beatriz voices Mirabel and perfectly mirrors this style with her powerful voice full of both pain and love as her character changes and grows. She somehow still remains goofy and playful, the most lovable of heroines too. 

‘Encanto’ vs ‘Coco’

Both films have beautiful nods to Latin culture, ‘Encanto’ paying tribute to its Colombian roots and ‘Coco’ doing the same for the Mexican culture. They also both use symbols like specific flowers and animals from historically accurate regions to reflect the best parts of being Colombian and Mexican. The abuelas in both films are also the matriarchal figures of their respective movies, becoming natural leaders because of the difficult and emotional journey they faced as kids. This just reflects Disney’s shift towards story-telling type films.

Many differences existed between ‘Encanto’ and the earlier released ‘Coco.’ For instance, the Madrigal family explores their heritage and history outside of their home, in different worlds and times. This allows us to see the sacrifices that Abuelo and Abuela made to get their family where they are now. It is about a story of a home and land that are lost, stolen, and then the journey back to them. It is a sensitive and difficult subject to tackle but ‘Encanto’ does it perfectly. In fact, the callback to such difficult times rings very true for many immigrant families can bring about a sense of comfort and belonging. 

Charming, beautiful, and fun, ‘Encanto’ is another Disney hit. 

Playing exclusively in theaters today!

By Mireille Karadanaian

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