Encanto: Better Than Expected

I think most of us can agree, Disney and Pixar have dropped the ball in recent years when it comes to their movies. Mostly Disney’s movies seem to be a soulless live-action remake of an already perfect film. These movies left me unsatisfied and craving more creative sustenance. They didn’t deliver the plot or character development that was expected. I know Disney and Pixar movies usually have a lot of heart; the writing and animation drip with love and effort. So, in all honesty, I didn’t have the highest expectations going in. I know this movie wasn’t a shameless remake of an original. However, I still had a sour opinion since even animated films lack their usual heart. Upon my watch, I realized I was impressed. I liked the movie and the story- it was refreshing to watch. Of course, there were some problems, but it wasn’t something that detracted from the film’s overall enjoyment.


The Good


The Overall Look
The animation is the first thing I want to point out as stellar. Everything was created so smoothly it was hard to look away. Every character movement felt natural for the world and characters. The backgrounds were almost realistic, which is a testament to how fantastic animation has become in recent years. The colors were vibrant without being nauseating and helped add to the story without overbearing. It set the tone and mood so well. Were we telling a happy or sad story? The color indicated that without it being obnoxiously dark or bright.


Symbolism


My little literary heart loves that the Casita was symbolic of the family. Every time there was grievance in the house, the familial bonds weakened, and the house gained a new crack. I thought it was fantastic when Mirabel and her sister, Isabela, started talking, which led to singing, and really connecting. We got to see the effects of the stress Abuela was causing in the household. Once Isabela finally discussed her true feelings about her powers and “ruined” engagement, she healed and created something new with her gift. Of course, the candle glowed stronger and brighter, and cracks were fixed in the house.


Characters


The characters were fun without being immature with antics. They really felt like a family that loved one another deeply and wanted what was best for one another. It was heartwarming. Our protagonist, Mirabel, is a loveable and really relatable 15-year-old. She’s awkward but outgoing and a bit of a black sheep, but she loves her family and does her best to do her part. It is familiar territory. Her family, while well-intentioned, looked down on her for not being blessed with her own miracle. They tend to push her aside despite her attempts to help, though she obviously doesn’t listen. And like most stories with similar characters, chaos ensues (though this time, it was refreshing it see she was not the one to start the conflict in this movie.) Her miracle is revealed to be her ability to heal her family and forge new pathways by the end. It was touching though a little predictable, but very fitting for her character.


Mirabel’s Abuela, Alma Madrigal (who I will refer to as Abuela), is a stern but caring woman who actively denies anything could be wrong due to her own trauma. She cares deeply for her family, which inadvertently causes the family unit to silently crack under the pressure of her will. Her control over the family leads Casita to literally crumble due to the cracks and stress in their family unit. Though she doesn’t say it, she looks down on Mirabel the most and feels she gets in the way by not having a special gift to contribute to the family. By the end of the movie, she realizes her mistakes and faces her past so she and her family can grow, thus moving forward.


We don’t talk about Bruno-no-no. I know I am breaking the rules, but I have to point out, his character took me by surprise. The way the family built him up made him seem like he would be the big-baddy-antagonist, but he wasn’t. He was just a misunderstood family member with the gift of precognition that no one appreciated. His powers were not superficial like his family members, and therefore, he was outcasted. But even still, he loved his family and did what he could to protect them while sparing them the harsh truth of Casita’s demise. He was the perfect foil to his mother, Abuela. While they both knew that their house was cracking before the family did, Bruno tried to fix it inside the walls. At the same time, Abuela covered it up on the outside to save face in the village and the family. Bruno selflessly hid away to hide the truth of his final vision the night Mirabel didn’t get her miracle gift.


The Bad


There wasn’t too much wrong with the film, which was a relief. A minor detail that did bug me was that Mirabel was oblivious to her Uncle Bruno. The film revealed that he was still present when Mirabel was supposed to receive her miracle. If he was still present, wouldn’t she know something about him from her own memories? She seemed to be about eight years old, old enough to remember him.


I felt that the other characters were one-dimensional. We didn’t get a sense of who they were outside their powers and perceived stereotypes. Mirabel’s mother heals and therefore is a caretaker. Her aunt Pepa controls the weather and hence is unstable for comedic effect. Luisa is strong, has an “iron” personality, and keeps everything inside. I don’t want to discredit the character development we did receive from her in her song. I feel it was not enough to make her a more dynamic character. While they were entertaining to watch, they really didn’t add more to the story overall. The plot would have remained the same if they had been removed from the movie.


Another gripe with the movie was the pacing. We spent so much time world and character building that we didn’t get the proper time to develop the plot. The events leading into the climax felt forced and lacked substance. I recall pausing during the movie and making a passing comment that my husband and I were a little more than halfway through the movie and still didn’t have a defined plot. It really felt like the film went from exposition to climax to resolution. I wanted more setup at the beginning of the film to show that Abuela’s firm grip on the family was causing Casita to crumble and more rising action showing Mirabel investigating her family’s feelings instead of focusing on just her sisters Luisa and Isabela.


Final Thoughts


Overall, the film was fun to watch. It had beautiful animation and fun characters. I love the cultural diversity that Disney has been bringing into its movies lately and the representation of different skin tones. Even though I am not of Latino background, the representation still means a lot to me. The film was refreshing to watch, and I was never bored watching it. Even though the film’s pacing was a little off, it didn’t take away from the overall solid story. This is definitely a film I can and most likely will watch again.

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