Worth the Watch: Encanto

Is Encanto as enchanting as Disney markets it to be?

The world of Encanto infuses Disney magic into a plot that is grounded in family values, complex navigation of family dynamics, and the crushing weight of being good enough. Encanto boasts a family of twelve ensemble characters, The Madrigals. The Madrigals reside in Casita, a sentient house. Casita transcends the traditional animated house trope by presenting a magical ability called a gift to a new Madrigal child on their fifth birthday. Alma Madrigal, the matriarch and discoverer of the miracle is mother to 50-year-old triplets, Julieta, Pepa, and Bruno. Julieta can heal with a meal. Pepa can affect the weather with her mood. And Bruno, who we don’t talk about, can see the future. Julieta and Pepa meet and marry Agustin and Felix, respectively. Julieta’s daughters are Isabela, Luisa, and Mirabel. Isabela can bloom flowers and Luisa has super strength. Pepa’s side of the family includes Dolores, Camilo, and Antonio. Dolores has super-hearing, Camilo can shapeshift, and Antonio will receive his gift soon.

The film follows Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), the black sheep of the 2nd generation Madrigals. Having been the only one of the Madrigals to not receive a gift, Mirabel struggles with her self-worth amidst an extraordinary family. During the afterparty of her cousin Antonio’s gift ceremony, she begins to notice cracks in her family’s beloved Casita, rapidly advancing on the ever-burning miracle candle. Dismissed by her family when she tries to raise her voice, Mirabel must act on her concerns on her own as she is swept up in a whirlwind of clandestine prophecies and embarks on a journey of healing both the magic and her family. 

Encanto’s music combines the vivid animation and upbeat instruments that captivate five-year-olds everywhere while managing to deftly weave mature themes into songs. The uncannily realistic swirling movements of the skirts and funky fresh dance moves draws eyes into the screen, but it is the lyrics, written by Lin Manuel Miranda, that are the star of the show. Surface Pressure details Luisa’s struggle with protecting and serving the family while hiding her rampant anxiety on the inside. What Else Can I Do, following Isabela’s outburst of resentment towards Mirabel and her family for forcing her to be perfect, documents her breaking free of her lifelong perfection as she quite literally blooms into her true self. 

What makes watching this movie such a compelling experience is how relatable the characters are written with their little quirks and inner turmoils. Like Mirabel, many people struggle to feel adequate in their contributions to their community. In Isabela and Luisa, there is a constant strain to be perfect and shelter others from familial hardships. Pepa’s, Dolores’, and Camilo’s powers all affect how they interact with others, transforming a casual conversation into a loaded spring that could launch at any moment. Encanto balances a fun adventure plot full of music and magic with the complicated dynamics of discovering who you are, and what makes an individual special, satisfying children and more mature audiences. Overall, Encanto is worth the watch.