In This Review

Encanto
Encanto
By Directed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard with Charise Castro Smith
Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2021, pp

This blockbuster animated family musical takes place in an idyllic, rural, premodern Colombia. But the original soundtrack, by Lin-Manuel Miranda (including the hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”), and the characters’ personal drama are decidedly contemporary. An ultrastrict matriarch rules over the multigenerational Madrigal family; the movie begins with the destruction of her town and the murder of her husband, violence that leaves her forever traumatized and fearful for her family. As displaced people, the Madrigals attribute their eventual triumphs to magical gifts. But their individual superpowers—extraordinary strength, the power to make flowers bloom, the ability to see the future, and so on—also suffocate their personal creativity. The resulting frustrations generate intrafamilial fractures, only resolved (spoiler alert!) when the matriarch recognizes that family ties built on love and community are more durable than those anchored in trepidation and isolation. To add notes of authenticity, Disney injects local flavors of Colombian cuisine, vibrant tapestries, and a racially diverse panoply of characters; the megastar Carlos Vives sings a celebratory ode to his native land and, by extension, to Latin America as a whole. If only the troubled region could enjoy some more Disney endings.