“Encanto” could have used another draft. Or three. 

Lincoln HayesCritics, Family, Movies, ReviewsLeave a Comment

New Disney movies draw me to the theater almost without question. Pandemic aside, we are usually in seats opening or second weekend. However these days, movies have to really, really draw us in to mask-up and sit as far from strangers as possible. But lackluster reviews and word of mouth about a movie will typically convince us to stay home and wait for streaming. 

Don’t believe the hype. Unless…

I had hoped the “meh” response I’d heard/read about Disney’s “Encanto” was more personal taste than a resounding criticism, so when it dropped on Disney+ recently, I was excited to form my own opinions. Sadly, word of mouth was accurate. 

“Encanto” is the story of the Madrigal family in Columbia who live in a magical house, or casita, blessed by the Miracle their grandmother Abuela Almo received in the form of an enchanted candle. This Miracle bestowed a magical gift on every member of the family, from super-strength to communicating with animals to foretelling the future. For everyone except Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). For some reason, when it was her turn to receive her gift by touching a magical door, her door disappeared and nothing happened. Not to be deterred, she has spent the past years doing whatever she can to help her family and community, despite her lack of a gift. 

On the day of her cousin’s ceremony, the casita begins to crack and fall apart. Fearing she is responsible, Mirabel begins a quest to find her tio Bruno (“We don’t talk about Bruno”) to find out if he has any insight (or foresight as he can see the future) as to what is happening. 

“Huh.”

Well, this wasn’t great. And I hate to say that because so many great people worked on it, namely Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the songs and contributed to the story. It is absolutely gorgeous. Mirabel’s sister Isabela (Diane Guerro) can spontaneously create flowers of vibrant colors and has a song where she shows off her gift brilliantly. There are cute moments with the kids and good bits of humor with her sister Luisa and her super-strength. But that’s it.

Otherwise, the rest of the film is kind of a swing and a miss. 

The story isn’t very compelling or clear. After watching it, I’m still not entirely sure what the message of the film was meant to be. The family has magic, they help the town, something happens to the magic, and the town is in trouble; got it. But what happens to the magic? Why does it happen? Why is Mirabel ultimately the one to solve it? And how do her actions do that?

You’re (Not) Welcome!

The songs are also very forgettable, so much so that I don’t remember any of them and I watched the film last night. Miranda’s previous work with Disney on Moana gave us songs like “You’re Welcome”, “How Far I’ll Go” and “I’m Shiney”. They get in your head and get your toes tapping. His musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” are huge successes and feature incredible songs. But “Encanto” feels unfinished and unpolished, like he sent them first drafts and they approved them sight-unseen. The script feels the same way, rushed and incomplete. I didn’t have an emotional connection to any of the characters, really, certainly not like previous Disney films. And when you look at the credited writers and see SIX names, you get the impression this souffle wasn’t ready to come out of the oven. 

Credit where credit is due

Positive takeaways are few but important. The representation for Latinx is great. The beauty and majesty of the culture comes through in spades. The performances are…ok with Beatriz as the stand out. Because the songs weren’t great, the performances weren’t memorable and therefore are difficult to applaud. It also seemed a few of the cast were not singers in any regard, which felt like another misstep in the creative process. 

I had hoped for more from “Encanto”. Hopefully their next project gets the time it needs to be up to their usual standards. 

 

Rating: 2 out of 5 Snack Packs

 

Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer living in NYC. He’s always working on something, it seems, so follow his journey on Twitter @lincolnlhayes. 

(Visited 328 times, 1 visits today)
Lincoln Hayes“Encanto” could have used another draft. Or three.