8. An Oscar-winning movie: Encanto (2021)
List Progress: 6/12
Hype-backlash can be a tough thing, and no one could be blamed for being turned off of Encanto because of it. When “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is being played on radio stations, it is more than a little tricky to get away from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s earworm music. But memetic songs aside, Encanto is…sweet. It is a solid, well-constructed kids movie, and a worthy enough winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but it doesn’t feel particularly earth-shattering.
Tucked away in a mountain village in Colombia, the Madrigal family lead their community with the help of their magical powers. Three generations of the family have been granted “gifts”, ranging from healing to communication with animals to shapeshifting, and they are encouraged by the strong-willed Abuela to use the gifts to protect their family and community. The outsiders are Mirabel, a teenage girl who never had her gift manifest, and her uncle Bruno, a clairvoyant who vanished years ago after being shunned for bringing so much bad news. When Mirabel notices signs that their enchanted Casita is developing cracks, she journey’s to find Bruno and figure out what is tearing her home and her family apart.
One of Encanto’s strongest qualities is how evocative it is in its characters. Not every member of the sprawling Madrigal family gets much screen time, but between their unique powers, expressive designs, and warm personalities, there is a lot to extrapolate about them and their lives and relationships. This movie is catnip for fanfic writers. What is on the screen is still rounded and complete, but it occasionally feels like it bit off more than it could chew. The movie crafts a full arc for the relationship between Mirabel and Abuela, but then also tries to cram in mini-arcs between Mirabel and each of her sisters. Having deeply personal conflicts solved in a song each makes the sisters look quite shallow and simple, when the whole point of their stories is that even your loved ones have hidden depths and struggles. It doesn’t help that one of the sisters, Luisa, has the most stylistically incongruent songs for her major set piece.
Encanto is good in a lot of ways. It doesn’t feel as bold as something like this year’s Turning Red, but it is still a lovely story of self-acceptance and family. It can be easy to see the flaws with adult eyes, but sometimes you just have to get swept up in the magic.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.