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Encanto

I went into Encanto with absolutely no expectations or preconcieved notions In fact, I went in with no information at all. I hadn’t even heard of the film. But my daughter had, and she was very eager to go see it, so when a couple of passes for an advance screening crossed my desk, I grabbed Maddie and off we went.

Even now though, mere days before the movie comes out, I’m seeing really no push. There’s a banner on Disney+, and sometimes an ad will pop up on my fire stick, but otherwise nothing. No commercials on television, no ads before YouTube videos, it almost feels like this thing doesn’t exist. And that’s a shame, because Encanto is a pretty good film.

We have a Colombian family, who generations ago escaped tyranny. The patriarch gave his life so that they could escape, and because of that, a miracle happens. An everlasting magical candle appeared and imbued all the members of this family with special gifts. One daughter has super strength, while another has super hearing. One can make flowers bloom out of nothing, well another one can heal you with whatever food she cooks. It’s an interesting premise, with this family as sort of the patrons of the entire village. They live in a magic house which manages to have its own personality without ever speaking a word, and from there they live and work and marry, and prepare for the youngest’s gift to emerge. That’s a time of some trepidation, because the last daughter, Mirabelle (Stephanie Beatriz), discovered she didn’t have a gift.

In the background though, the cracks in the walls are beginning to show. And it looks like the time for that miracle may be running out. It is up to Mirabel to save the miracle, save her family, and maybe in the process, figure out who she is.

Maddie is a big fan of the sort of Latin entertainment that’s been coming up lately… Stuff like Cuco, or Luca, or Book of Life, so this fits right into her wheelhouse. It’s gorgeously made with genuinely interesting characters, and a sense of magic… Dangerous magic. Mirabelle finds a lost family member Bruno (John Leguizamo) with a dire vision of the future, but it’s mixed up. Things don’t happen in order, and this becomes a mystery she has to unravel.

The thing that stands out the most for me in this film, are the songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I am an old theater veteran, and I pay attention to the songs in Disney films, glorified show tunes really. But the thing is, in the modern era, the music hasn’t been particularly memorable. With the exception of Frozen, I can’t really pick too many modern era Disney songs out of the air. Tangled is a better film than Frozen, but the only thing I remember from that is about half of “Waiting For My Life to Begin”. Frozen two, I know that “Into the Unknown” exists… But I can’t even hum it from memory. And the only reason that I remember “You’re Welcome” from Moana, is because I watched Spider-Man sing it at karaoke one night. All the music in Encanto just sticks with you. It’s a sort of film where you want to rush out and buy the soundtrack because it’s haunting and original and just works. It doesn’t stick with a normal pop or show tune formula, it’s progressive melody and really well thought out. I could give this film high marks just for that.

I could, but I don’t have to. The characters really carry this done as well. It’s still Disney, but there’s flaws and there’s depth and there’s growth. Everybody has an arc, and that’s interesting. Mirabel herself should be the least interesting of all of them, no superpowers, and maybe the mousiest looking one of them all. But there’s a personality and quirkiness to her that’s just enchanting. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes as well, the way she sews and embroidery on some things, the particular personality quirks of each character, and especially the bizarre and mournful nature of the lost brother Bruno. Everything just works together perfectly.

If I have any complaints, it’s that I wish we got the dark prediction earlier in the film, somewhere tacked onto the end of the first act. Watching Mirabel try and prevent it, and hunt down the clues is really the most entertaining part of this film for me. But because it’s really all shoved into the middle and back end of the third act, it sometimes feels like it goes too fast. Then again, that might be an endorsement… The film obviously passes The watch test.

I have two daughters, which means I spent a lot of time taking them to Disney, princess, and animated films over the last decade. There’s some that fall into a predictable pattern, predictable characters and tropes, and after a while you can spot it a mile away. It becomes boring. There’s others, that stand out, films that you end up enjoying yourself as well, it’s not just about taking the kids out. This is one of those. So when Encanto comes out this weekend, go see it. Hit it in the theater where you got a good sound system to revel in that soundtrack.

Encanto hits theaters November 24th.

By the way, go see Ghostbusters Afterlife as well… I got together with a group of ‘busters and we hit that this weekend too! The film gave me everything I wanted from a Ghostbusters sequel and is possibly an even better follow up than Ghostbusters Two. Support good films like Encanto , but let’s also support the good ones like Afterlife… I kind of don’t want to see Encanto knock Ghostbusters off the board! (I’m going again this week and taking the wife with me this time!)

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