Encanto (4 stars)

Encanto

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Disney join forces again for a marvellous animated musical

Difficult family dynamics and heartfelt and hilarious show tunes fuel this vivacious and visually spectacular Disney animation, which introduces us to a large and incredibly special brood living in an enchanted house in the Colombian mountains. Following his wonderful work with the studio on 2016's Moana, Lin-Manuel Miranda provides the songs, while Jared Bush (the writer of Moana and writer and co-director of Zootropolis) helms, alongside Byron Howard and co-director and Bush's fellow screenwriter Charise Castro Smith.

We follow Mirabel Madrigal (charismatically voiced by Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Stephanie Beatriz), whose kind nature and earnest intentions place her at the centre of her large and otherwise magical family, which is headed up by Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero). Mirabel's sisters Luisa (Jessica Darrow) and the practically perfect Isabela (Diane Guerrero) boast formidable strength and the ability to make flowers bloom respectively, her mother Julieta (Angie Cepeda) is a healer, while her mysterious uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo) was blessed / cursed with visions of the future. With her round green specs, buoyant curls and slightly flustered personality, Mirabel is gawky but adorable and though she's lacking in magical powers she drives the narrative with her curiosity, sensitivity and the force of her pluck.

Keeping the action located within the Madrigals' home and the small surrounding village doesn't mean that the film lacks a sense of adventure, given the house's ability to contain and reveal vast magical landscapes. By never moving away from the family in question there's the opportunity to explore the anxieties of supporting characters and the benefits and complications of living in a big, multi-generational brood. This dazzlingly colourful, practically tangible film also channels Colombian traditions of magical realism and reflects the country's diverse make-up, while Miranda's typically infectious songs keep things toe-tapping and lively and flesh out the story beautifully. It all adds up to something utterly joyous.

Available to watch in cinemas from Wednesday 24 November.

Encanto

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 39min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Byron Howard, Jared Bush
  • Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, María Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Wilmer Valderrama

A Colombian girl is frustrated at being the only member of her family without magic powers.