“Encanto” is Disney’s newest attempt to pay homage to the Latino culture, this time celebrating the people of Colombia. Here the center of the story is about a multi-generational family blessed by wonderful enchantments. The word encanto is used to reference a miracle that made a home for this family, deep in the mountains in a town named “Macondo” founded by the Buendia family in the middle of the jungle. Of course, Gabriel García Márquez’s 1967 novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” delves deeply into sex, politics, and the bloodstained history of imperialism in Latin America—none of which are quite suitable subjects for a Disney kids” movie. So for its structure and rhythm, “Encanto” leans on more familiar U.S. media touchstones.
Here’s the kicker: almost every member of the Madrigal family has a special power and they tend to be self-obsessed: Isabela (Diane Guerrero) can make beautiful flowers bloom, and Luisa (Jessica Darrow) is strong enough to lift anything.
But poor Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) is the only family member without any evident superpowers.
Their mother, the attentive Julieta (Angie Cepeda), has the ability to heal people with her cooking and other funny family members include Aunt Pepa (Carolina Gaitán), a tempestuous spirit with a mini rainstorm over her head, and their shape-shifting cousin Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz) who could use a boost of self-confidence.
Imagine how poor Mirabel feels and being the youngest sister, she desperately wants to prove (sans magic) she can support her family and community just as well as they can. Plus she’s curious that maybe her lack of powers means that the family’s enchantment is fading. To that end, Mirabel decides to investigate the source of this decline and see if it can be fixed.
First stop, Mirabel searches for her uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), who left the clan because his visions were so strong they troubled the family. Naturally, along this journey, she reaches out to other family members and there are plenty of cute songs to keep the journey moving.
It’s clear that Mirabel will ultimately locate her own magical destiny because the magic of the Madrigals is real, and the dark backstory makes the family even more interesting. In their own way, the entire family are superheroes because their magic flows into the town, protecting the entire community. It’s a utopia. Until, quite literally, it starts to come apart at the seams.
I don’t want to enter into any spoiler alerts but the family’s matriarch, Abuela (María Cecilia Botero), takes it upon herself to investigate and it turns out that the ostracized uncle Bruno is needed to help solve the puzzle.
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote eight original songs for the film, all of them solid, several of them gems, such as the strong-woman Luisa’s song “Surface Pressure” and the ensemble number “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” and the really fun, catchy rival song, Camila Cabello’s “Havana.”
There are a lot of great levels in “Encanto” and it’s a visually pretty film. A new classic? You bet.
“Encanto” is playing now. https://movies.disney.com/encanto