Encanto (2021)

I am elated that Disney and Piax have begun finding the value in and delving in to tales that revolve around people of color. There’s so much rich heritage in the latinx community involving spirituality, honor, love, and the power of family. There’s so much amazing folklore that could really stand to be passed on to a new generation of movie lovers with great respect as presented in “Encanto.” Although it’s primarily about a Latinx family, it’s deep down about generational trauma, and the burdens that our elders can place on the youth, whether they realize it or not

The Madrigal clan is a large, extraordinary family who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a charmed place called the Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift — every child except Mirabel. However, she soon may be the Madrigals last hope when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is now in danger.

Directors Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and co-director Charise Castro Smith offer a beautifully realized (with obvious influence from Studio Ghibli, a la the casita which feels ripped right out of Miyazaki), touching film that thrives on conveying every idea through vibrant often beautiful music (Lin Manuel Miranda is at it again). Every song and musical number featured is a testament to the underlying sadness lurking with every character we meet. Whether it’s mom Julieta, whose cooking contain healing properties, Isabela, a young girl whose perfection is her defining quality, or Luisa, the super strong older sister who can lift boulders with ease.

Mirabel, the main protagonist with “no apparent gifts” to contribute to her family, is tasked with finding out why her family is suddenly falling apart and what it has to do with their long, crushing history. “Encanto” confronts themes that have been prevalent through many Latin families, as the vicious cycle doesn’t end until someone decides it has to end. In this instance it’s Mirabel, a plain Jane girl who envies the gifts that her sisters offer her community and their magical casita. What I loved about “Encanto” beyond its rich themes about trauma and grief, is also that it subverts a lot of the usual Disney tropes.

There’s no big villain or love interest, just a young girl who ventures out to save her family, and realizes that the fact she’s “not special” could be the key to solving their gradual breakdown. Stephanie Beatriz is brilliant as Mirabel, providing an Oscar worthy performance as the film’s heroine. She leads the charge with a dynamic cast featuring John Leguizamo, Jessica Darrow, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Adassa, and María Cecilia Botero (stellar as Abuela Alma Madrigal, respectively. “Encanto” is definitely another Pixar masterpiece bursting with heart, soul, and actual substance. It promises to be a gem on constant rotation in my library.

Now Streaming on Disney+ and Playing in Theaters Nationwide.