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Encanto, New and Different

Posted in Reviews

Last updated on December 8, 2022

Jim and I braved a theater to see Encanto last weekend. With the wide aisles (for the reclining seats) and people choosing not to sit next to each other, it wasn’t as bad as we’d feared.

The Short – Far From the Tree

The short had me smiling the moment it started. It was done in 2D (hand drawn) style. I say style because I’m assuming that, like South Park, it was all digital, but stylized to look hand drawn.

Regardless, it was beautiful, sweet, and the message was great. I think this is the first time that the message from the short so closely resembled the message from the main movie.

The Movie

Let me start this by saying I don’t intend to include any major plot spoilers. However, some of what I discuss may be considered minor spoilers by some. If you don’t want that, you can jump down to my overall thoughts. Also, I know this isn’t a “Pixar” movie, but since both “Disney” and “Pixar” movies are released by Disney, I’m going to group my references to them as “Disney/Pixar.”

The Good

I enjoyed Encanto. It was fun, colorful, and mostly upbeat. The Madrigal characters were entertaining and well fleshed out, as we’ve come to expect from Disney/Pixar.

I love that Mirabel wears glasses. Not only is it nice — and long overdue — representation, it’s also a reminder of Mirabel’s “ordinariness.” Although, I find it interesting that they have her wearing the exact same glasses — that somehow grow as she does — for at least 10 years.

Mirabel was a great main character. A good balance of almost perfect and human foibles. She wants to help her family, to contribute, but carries a deep burden of sadness, inadequacy, and envy. To be entirely honest, Mirabel is easily in my top 5 favorite Disney/Pixar lead characters.

The OK

The main underlying themes of Encanto were about relationships, mostly familial ones. I think that those messages were communicated very effectively for adults. However, I question whether kids — ostensibly the movie’s targeted demographic — would understand the nuances.

I don’t think Mirabel’s conversations with her family members will serve to help children learn that sometimes those who look like they have life figured out are actually barely holding it together. Or that we should be accepted for who we are, rather than who others want us to be.

The “I Wish it Was Different”

There isn’t anything about Encanto that I dislike. However, there are two main things I wish were different.

1) The Music

Encanto‘s music was new — different — than what I’m used to from Disney/Pixar movies. The songs switched styles midway through. The lyrics could be hard to understand or follow. And — most different — they didn’t stick with me.

Usually, after leaving a Disney/Pixar movie, I rush to buy the soundtrack. I learn the songs, singing along in the shower. And I buy them in multiple languages, picking my favorites to add to my regular playlist.

But, Encanto‘s music isn’t something I’d sing along to. It’s not shower song material. It’s different. And, while it’s probably a good thing that Disney/Pixar is evolving, it’s a bit sad. Disney/Pixar movies felt like one of those things that wouldn’t ever change much. You’d get happy endings, important relationships, and ridiculously catchy songs that would stick with you until you die.

Perhaps time and rewatches will change my mind, but for now, Encanto only checked the first two boxes.

2) The Culture

Because Encanto‘s synopsis mentioned that it takes place in Colombia, I was expecting the location and culture to have a significant impact on the story. Coco, Mulan, Brave, Moana, etc. would all be completely different movies if their settings were changed. That’s what I expected from Encanto.

However, I didn’t really see many, if any, location indicators in the movie. Granted, I don’t know a lot about Colombian culture. But, to my inexperienced eyes, Encanto could have happened anywhere in Latin America.

The incorporation of magic, and the isolation of the Madrigal’s village, served to create a fantastical, mythological world, as opposed to one steeped in the local culture. I really would have preferred more inclusion of Colombian culture, to have seen it celebrated.

I will acknowledge that there may be small things — likely missed by non-Colombianos — that make the film feel more authentically Colombian to those in the know. Perhaps something similar to the inclusion of a heavy use of the diminutive “ito” and the use of “chamaco” in Coco.

Overall Thoughts

Like I said before, I enjoyed Encanto. It was fun, funny, and heart wrenching in places, as Disney/Pixar movies generally are. Will I buy it once it’s available? Maybe. Will I go watch it in theaters a second time? No. DO I advise watching it in theaters? Yes, if you’re comfortable doing so. Do I want to make my own, real-life version of Mirabel’s skirt? 1,000% yes!

So, what do you think? Have you watched Encanto? If so, did you like it? If not, do you think you will? If you or your family is from Colombia, were there elements specific to Colombian culture? Let me know in the comments.

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