With the quality of the Disney Animation Studios product now matching – or in certain cases even bettering – that of sister studio Pixar, it’s getting harder to review this genre with such a back catalogue of sensational movies.
Take Encanto – which is arguably the best ‘sing-a-long’ animation since the original Frozen – for example, this is lusciously colourful and beautifully-crafted cinema, but against the competition it’s only really ‘middling’ fare.
Just like with Black Widow and The Eternals – two perfectly commendable superhero entries that if released ten years ago would have stood out more – were to Marvel Studios, they are now becoming so similar and released with such regularity, they struggle to stand-out from the crowd. And that’s what Encanto suffers here.
As aforementioned it does have some stand-out musical tracks to help pad out its quite linear storyline – which sees teenage girl Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz from In The Heights) face the frustration of being the only member of the Madrigal family not to receive magical powers in a vibrant Colombian mountain town.
That’s because her grandmother Alma (Maria Cecilia Botero) received a supernatural candle as her husband was killed in an armed conflict – which created a sentient homestead enclosed inside a mountain range to protect them (and a small gathering of accompanying villagers) from harm.
In the process she saved her infant triplet children Julieta (Angie Cepeda), Pepa (Carolina Gaitan) and Bruno (John Leguizamo), and the magic of the candle that filtered through their new home soon imbuing them with fantastical powers to heal, control the weather and see into the future respectively.
Fast forward a couple of decades and out of all the offspring of Alma’s three children, only the youngest daughter of Julieta, Mirabel, wasn’t given any special powers at her ceremony, with her elder sisters, the flower-blooming Isabel (Diane Guerrero) and Luisa (Jessica Darrow) with superhuman-strength, receiving theirs.
But with her uncle Bruno now estranged – after seeing a terrifying vision of the future – Mirabel looks to seek him out when she has awful premonitions herself of their home crumbling and the magic vanishing.
And when some of the family start to lose their powers any clues to this fading gift that her grandmother inherited may just show that she’s an important part of the family after all.
But despite being serviceable stuff throughout – and it’s certainly not from a lack of effort – Encanto still seems to be missing that certain, erm, magic.
Beatriz’s Mirabel proves to be a delightfully expressive lead character, but when you factor out the engaging soundtrack, this is pretty much ‘by the numbers’ stuff, and compared to say, Pixar’s Coco, isn’t in that league.
Which leaves this passably enchanting animation to be remembered for its eclectically colourful palette alongside a few memorable tunes – if very little more.
Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now
Voice Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Maria Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan & Wilmer Valderrama
Running Time: 1 Hr 42 Mins
Directors: Jared Bush & Byron Howard
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