Encanto ★★★★

Encanto is the perfect summation of Disney’s attempts at distancing themselves from their overused formulas, but at the same time, it encapsulates everything that made those previous films so great. Instead of traditional heroes, villains, princesses, and princes, the story is much more concerned with real emotional throughlines. Despite the fantastical magic on display and the inhuman powers the characters possess, the Madrigal family are fully realized in their depiction, and their conflicts are surprisingly down-to-earth and hard hitting. The film plants the seeds of their own disillusionment with each other through how the family glorifies those who are gifted, leaving those without a gift to the wayside. And while this could have easily been turned into a straightforward “everyone is special” narrative, the writers make sure to examine all the angles of this dynamic, from those with no gift, to those with a gift, to those with a gift that people find undesirable, to those who prioritize gifts in the first place. It paints a portrait of a family with no real villains, but real characters who do what they think is best for everyone based on the experiences they have been through. Ultimately, while it does tell its audience that everyone is special, it’s able to say so much more than that. It portrays how children should be able to forge their own paths separate from arbitrary expectations. It shows that parents should not always be pushing their children to get the best out of them and shouldn’t put the weight of the world on their shoulders. And most importantly, it tells its audience that even if you struggle to find meaning in comparison to more successful contemporaries, that does not mean that you are a failure, or are any less capable of achieving your goals.

Even if the film does suffer from a good but somewhat unmemorable soundtrack and a bit too short of a runtime, Encanto stands as one of the best Disney films in recent memory. It knows when best to follow the standard formula, and it knows exactly when to deviate from it, creating a story that understands all the complexities of family and love. And that’s without even mentioning the gorgeous animation and excellent voice acting. It’s just a really fun, heartwarming film that I would definitely recommend giving a try.

2021 Films Ranked

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