‘Encanto’ Review: In This House, We Make Magic

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‘Encanto’ Review: In This House, We Make Magic

For better or worse, Disney has always been in the business of creating magic. We all know the worst: the unflattering secondhand sorcery of formulaic plots, tasteless songs, and lifeless animation. But the best of all – well, it’s the kind of magic that lasts for generations.

So it’s not unlike the magic of Cassita, the Madrigal family’s living home in Disney’s fantastic new animated film “Encanto.” Forget Alexa – Cassita’s smart home like no other. She speaks in the language of clapping and flapping window shutters, and helps keep things in order.

And she has her own traditions: When each young madrigal comes of age, she gives them a gift and a door for a new bedroom, an impossibly large and elaborately designed room around a special ability. It all started years ago, when the Madrigal matriarch, Abuela Alma (Maria Cecilia Botero), and her family fled the violence of their village. After a tragic loss, however, a miracle appeared in the form of a candle that gave the children their powers. There’s a shape-shifter, a prophet, a healer, and more — and then there’s Mirabel (a perfectly cast Stephanie Beatriz), the clan’s Muggle.

When Mirabelle finds herself in the middle of a mystery about the future of her family’s magic, she goes on a mission to find out how she can prevent the worst. It’s a surprisingly small-scale story: instead of going on a journey, the action unfolds in and around the Madrigal house. But that’s because “Encanto” is most interested in the love and struggles of family, without silly side characters or romantic leads.

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The computer animation, some of the best from any major studio over the years, presents a dazzling mix of colors and a meticulous weave of precious details – such as the embroidery on the skirt, the golden-brown layer of a cheese arepa and a selection of native Colombians. of plants.

“Encanto” has a strong association with and respect for all dimensions of Latino culture. Members of the Madrigal family have a light to dark skin color, their hair texture ranging from straight to kinky-curly. And the grand pooh-bah of contemporary music film scores, Lin-Manuel Miranda, provides a mesmerizing soundtrack of songs combining salsa, bachata and hip-hop played with traditional Colombian folk instruments.

The directors, Jared Bush and Byron Howard, collaborated on the racially conscious “Zootopia,” one of Disney’s brightest gems of the past decade, and they included an important political message in the film. This is the story of displaced people who build their homes for nothing. Their history is the source of their magic, and they use that magic to selflessly improve their community, without being assimilated into it. Given our country’s track record on these subjects, it is quietly extraordinary to see such a story in a children’s film.

But “Encanto” also opts for its magical characters to fall into the trope of model immigrants—that they only earned their place because of their special abilities. Members of the madrigal family are there even when they are not casting roses or changing the seasons. And even with these splendid adventures of magician, Madrigal, with all its relatable family dynamics, is faithfully loving, witty and flawed.

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If home is where the heart is, my heart is with Cassita.

Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. in Theaters.

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