Encanto ★★★½

The story is breezy with just the right amount of emotional heft slung in near the climax, the characters are nothing new, and the themes are pretty broad and even for a cgi family picture, but DAMN does Encanto look and sound great.

The contrast of deep inky black spaces and glowing neon colors, the kaleidoscopic vision of nature in bloom, and the truly psychedelic musical numbers all make this movie a visual feast. I actually felt a little gobsmacked noticing the lighting at some points - these soft, rounded characters are no more complexly designed than the oldest Pixar movies, yet they appear *real* in the sense that they look as if they're physically there in an actual, tangible space on the screen. They look filmed in the way a grand stop-motion movie does, and there's an obvious mountain of love and attention paid to the way everything here moves and flows in a fullscreen dance at nearly all times. Also the music is catchy and fun, getting stuck in my head even if there are no massive standout numbers like "Under the Sea" or "Hakuna Matata." The rhythm, the drum and bass, the cadence of those brief rap moments, they're all swirling around in my head just thinking about the movie now.

Here's where I admit that my only experience of Lin Manuel Miranda has been his role as Texan aeronaut Lee Scorseby in the HBO adaptation of the His Dark Materials books. I know all about Hamilton and how twitter endlessly debates whether the guy sucks or not, but from this movie alone, I've gotta say the dude can clearly write a tune.

I should note that while the characters themselves were mostly familiar family flick archetypes, the genuine Latinx representation is another welcome shift from a company that has been overwhelmingly caucasian for way too long. Cowriter Charise Castro Smith deserves all the projects that may come her way after this success.

I don't have a ton to say, but I do have to note that thanks to a friend's recommendation, I was expecting an emotional wallop like Coco, which left me sobbing a few years ago, but Encanto has a much lighter touch. Like I said, there's a bit of weight in the big climax, but the impact is gentle, floating away as the happy ending crests into the credits. Fun, extremely pretty movie that hits all the right notes even if the story and characters drift off from memory quickly.

PS I could not believe the main character was voiced by Diaz from Brooklyn 99!

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