Can a film that perhaps doesn’t quite fit the purpose it was created for still be a good film? That is certainly the question that surrounds the latest film from Disney – the animated spectacular Encanto.
Set in Columbia Encanto is told through the eyes of a young girl named Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatrix – In The Heights) who as part of the Madrigal family has grown up with a magical ‘living’ house known as the Casita. The strange occurrence happened when Mirabel’s Grandmother, Alma (Maria Cecilia Botero – Maria) fled an armed conflict. While her husband died she saved her three children and the candle she was holding became enchanted and gave her a new home and each one of the children a special ‘gift’.
Those gifts have helped create a happy village and now Mirabel has watched as her two sisters receive their gifts, one the gift of super-human strength and the other of beauty, however when it is her time to receive her gift nothing happens.
Mirabel has come to accept that she has not been given a gift but when it is her nephew Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers – Justine) time to receive his gift the whole family remains worried – has the magic of the Casita ended? Added to their worry is the fact that Mirabel finds the last vision of the missing family member, Bruno (John Leguizamo – Moulin Rouge) and it seems to suggest that the Casita is about to collapse and crumble and that she is responsible for it.
There is little doubt that when Encanto was first envisaged that Disney saw it to be a film for children. And that is where the question that was posed earlier comes into play. There is no doubt that Encanto is a beautiful and captivating film, but you could easily argue that this is not a film for young children.
The film, which has been written and directed by a team made up of Jared Bush (Moana), Byron Howard (Tangled) and Charise Castro Smith (The Haunting Of Hill House), takes the audience on a magical ride while exploring topics as deep as what it is like being a refugee and the importance of family but with the film heavily using metaphor you have to wonder just how much of that will sail right over the heads of young viewers. The central theme is ‘if a family falls apart their ‘home’ crumbles’ but how many young children are going to understand that?
Instead, Encanto becomes a film for the older audience members who can actually take something away from it. The music itself is something that is going to be enjoyed by people who enjoy musical theatre and the songs just aren’t catchy enough to be picked up by those kids that fell in love with Frozen.
Perhaps what makes Encanto stand out from other Disney films though is it brightness. Bright colours and amazing artwork make this a stunningly beautiful film. How the film will be enjoyed is further enhanced by a screenplay that truly makes this a fairytale for adults. While watching the film it is hard not to think of moments from your own family life and unlike some animations there has been a lot of emotion put into the characters here. There is no way anyone could watch this film and not feel for Mirabel and at times her sisters.
Then there is the suspense of the film. As an audience member, you do find yourself totally engrossed in the film and despite the magical themes that are used throughout the film it does remain quite believable. Therefore when Mirabel tries to put together the puzzle pieces of what is happening to the home and the family you do find yourself on the edge of your seat hoping that everything will turn out okay for a family that you do care about.
Encanto may not be the next family favourite that Disney hoped it would be but if you have teenage kids or a lover of animation yourself this is a beautiful film that you may find yourself falling in love with.