Disney's 'Encanto' an explosively colorful, Mirandized musical family fantasy
"Encanto" -- ★ ★ ★ ½
Walt Disney's explosively colorful, Mirandized-musical family fantasy "Encanto" would appear to be an ideal follow-up to the studio's megahit girl-power production "Frozen."
But this endearing, digitally animated feature actually owes more to an earlier superpowered family fantasy, "The Incredibles."
In that movie, a disgruntled former super fan named Buddy Pine plots to supply everybody with super powers, reasoning that "When everyone's super, no one will be!"
"Encanto" takes place in a magical, fairy tale Colombian village where extended members of the Madrigal family each possess a gift, a super power.
All except for poor Mirabel (playfully voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), inexplicably denied any super gift by the mysterious candle that protects La Casa Madrigal and ensures its supernatural existence.
So, does Mirabel's ordinariness confirm the super nature of her relatives, who tend to define themselves by their powers as they thrive in a living mansion where moving floor tiles assist with daily chores?
Mirabel's petal-pushing, self-centered sister Isa (Diane Guerrero) creates lavish waves of flowers wherever she goes. Mirabel's other sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow) is a female Hercules, proud of her effortless ability to lift buildings, but not necessarily anyone's spirits.
Grumpy Aunt Pepa (Carolina Gaitán), a weather influencer, walks around with a little rain cloud over her head. Mirabel's strange uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo) can predict the future but tires of being victimized by "kill the messenger" reactions.
Her domestic mom Julieta (Angie Cepedas) makes truly healthy meals that cure all sorts of ailments. Good thing cousin Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz) can shape-shift into anyone or thing, for he seems to lack an actual identity.
"Encanto" also lacks an actual villain, although things look bleak when the magic candle starts flickering, horrifying cracks threaten the Madrigal mansion, and the stern matriarch Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) focuses on Mirabel as the cause.
"Encanto," directed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard with Charise Castro Smith as a co-director, lacks the infectious drive of "Frozen," as well as a breakout, can't-get-it-out-of-your-head hit song such as "Let It Go."
This, despite eight emotionally distilled, verbally nimble songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda that play upon the ear drums with varying degrees of effect.
"Encanto" offers an awkward sibling rivalry subplot in the third act, but its best take-away plays upon the premise that our perceived weaknesses often become our strongest assets when destructive cracks appear.
Besides, "Encanto" rejects what Buddy Pine said about super powers, for he never considered that empathy, love and sacrifice might actually trump the ability to lift buildings.
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Starring: Stephanie Beatriz, Diane Guerrero, Angie Cepeda, John Leguizamo, Jessica Darrow
Directed by: Jared Bush, Byron Howard with co-director Charise Castro Smith
Other: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release. In theaters. Rated PG. 99 minutes