Encanto ★★★★½

Buoyant and beaming, Byron Howard and Jared Bush's "Encanto" is a delight. Telling the story of a family whose almost-every member has a certain preternatural gift, the animated fantasy bursts with artistry, song, and robust and recognizable themes.

Set in a Colombian village known for a magical family at its center, "Encanto" sees the magical gifts of that family waning for no readily apparent reason. Driven by Maribel, the only giftless member of the clan, the narrative takes its characters on an adventure that observes the mystery behind the titular enchantments and the ties that bind the family unit.

"Encanto" vivaciously recognizes that those ties are imperfectly arranged. They are knotted, frayed, and fragile and keep members in their own boxes to ruminate upon questions of how well they do or do not fit in, who they are, and how they contribute. It is a narrative that holds up a knowing mirror to the concept of family and legacy, magical or otherwise.

The characters making up the film's blessed family are well-drawn, ideally voiced, and memorable. They inhabit and rich landscape, wondrously executed. Colors are real and electric, and textures bristle and flow.

Howard and Bush ensure the work has vigor and life, but the pulse of the film is driven by Lin-Manuel Miranda's songs. His music and lyrics instantly absorb the audience and create a character-rich heartbeat that motivates the story on its way, elucidates specific mythology, and communicates toe-tapping and heart-swelling emotion.

"Encanto" is completely entertaining and enveloping. The work bubbles over with music and soul, happily wearing its heart and themes on its sleeve. Excellently assembled, the film lands as one of 2021's most enjoyable cinematic experiences.

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