Encanto ★★★½

Lin Manuel Miranda is a cottage industry at this point. Half of the movies with songs in them? Those songs were written by Lin Manuel Miranda. It would feel like overkill or oversaturation if his songs weren't so damned good. Well, honestly, it kind of feels like overkill or oversaturation anyway. It's little surprise that a backlash has started against Miranda. It was inevitable, really. Miranda is undeniably talented (the songs in "Encanto", which Miranda wrote just in case you wondering why I opened this review talking about him, are very good) and he seems like a nice guy (he's an outspoken "Weird" Al Yankovic fan, which means he's a part of my spiritual tribe) but he's just EVERYWHERE since the success of "Hamilton" in a way that feels inescapable, and that usually rubs people the wrong way.

It doesn't rub me the wrong way because, as I already said, I love Miranda's songwriting skills (I find his songs for "Moana" especially powerful). Yeah, he's everywhere (he's had this movie, "In the Heights" and "Click, Click...Boom" in 2021 alone...and there might be other movies that involved his songwriting skills that I am forgetting) but the reason he's everywhere is that he's so damned good. Plus the man seems to be in his prime and if he's able to write so many great songs in such a short amount of time, well, why shouldn't he? (Kind of like Stephen King releasing so many books in the...well, I guess he's always done that. But especially in the late '70s and early '80s King was releasing bona fide classics with insane regularity.)

Anyway, the songs are great. But what about the rest of "Encanto", a film about a family in an enchanted house that all (with the noteworthy exception of our lead character, Mirabel) seem to possess super-powered gifts which they use to help the nearby village and which suddenly seem to be failing? It's good. It never quite blew me away, but I certainly liked it. I liked what it had to say about how family members help and annoy one another with equal intensity, how people can come to rely too much on the help of those who give of themselves, the frustration of being the "screw-up" or less obviously talented member of a highly talented family (come to think of it, this feels like an animated Disney version of "The Royal Tenenbaums" to a certain extent) and in general just how messy and complicated family dynamics really are. The family in Encanto, the family Madrigal, is led by the seemingly sweet abuela but she's also very cruel toward Mirabel because of her lack of powers, and I found the way it shaded that character in particular to be refreshingly complex and realistic. Families have those kind of dynamics and undercurrents in them and this movie captures that and other subtle aspects of being in a large family quite sharply.

Yet for all of the things that "Encanto" does well (the story, the family dynamics, the vivid color pallet, the fact that it doesn't send its heroine on a road trip to seek something but instead has her just looking for the solution within her own home), it just felt...basic to me. It was good but it never rose to greatness for me. There's nothing I can pinpoint that precisely held it back for me, but it just never engaged me in that deeper level that great movies (or, at least, movies I adore) do. It was fine, I had fun watching it, but that's about all I can say about it. The songs are good, it's wonderfully colorful, but for all of its attempts to be unique and set itself apart it always kind of feels...like every other recent Disney animated film. Maybe it's just because this is the third Disney/Pixar film of the calendar year and a certain amount of oversaturation (there's that word again) or fatigue is setting in. Maybe if I had seen this one first it would be getting four stars instead of "Raya and the Last Dragon". It's not significantly worse than "Raya". In fact, it might even be better. But it doesn't feel better. It didn't excite me as much as "Raya" or "Luca" (although neither of those thrilled me half as much as "Mitchells vs. the Machines" either), but I don't know if that's because it's not as good of a movie or because I've just seen too many animated films at this point in the year/my life.

But there are capybaras in it, and capybaras rule. Therefore I'm going to bump it up to three and a half stars instead of three...but it's lurking in that area. It's definitely good, but it just didn't floor me the way that the best movies do. Of course, being floored every time is kind of a ridiculous thing to expect.

Block or Report

Dale liked these reviews