[Screen It]


(2021) (voices of Stephanie Beatriz, Maria Cecilia Botero) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Musical: A family where all but one is blessed with magical abilities must contend with that magic suddenly waning.

Ever since fleeing a town long ago with her husband and three young children, Abuela Alma Madrigal (voice of MARIA CECILIA BOTERO) has presided over a manor in the Columbian mountains that's filled with magic. So much so that when any family member comes of a certain age, the manor imbues them with a specific magical gift, with the next in line being young Antonio (voice of RAVI-CABOT CONYERS), the son of Felix (voice of MAURO CASTILLO) and Pepa (voice of CAROLINA GAITAN) -- the latter whose emotions play out as weather events -- and sibling to shapeshifter Camilo (voice of RHENZY FELIZ) and Dolores (voice of ADASSA) who hears everything.

None of this is lost on teenager Mirabel (voice of STEPHANIE BEATRIZ) -- sister to the perfect Isabela (voice of DIANE GUERRERO) who can cause flowers to grow and has drawn the eye of handsome bachelor Mariano (voice of MALUMA), and Luisa (voice of JESSICA DARROW) who's endowed with super strength -- who somehow was passed over for the magic. With her uncle, Bruno (voice of JOHN LEGUIZAMO), having had a troubling vision of the girl before he disappeared years ago, Mirabel is something of the black sheep of the family although she's loved by her mom, Julietta (voice of ANGIE CEPEDA), who can heal things instantly, and dad, Agustin (voice of WILMER VALDERRAMA).

When the manor's magic begins to wane and affects some of the family members, Abuela Alma blames Mirabel. But with her wanting to preserve all of that, the teen sets out to discover what's happening and how her long-absent uncle might be involved.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

The way I see it, families are just microcosms of overall humanity, and the larger the immediate or extended unit might be, the greater the odds of it containing one or more samples and examples of all the good and bad personality traits present in humans.

Of course, the difference is that you don't have to spend time living with all of the latter, meaning most people -- unless they're the few lucky ones who can coexist with other family members with no drama -- must tolerate less than desirable behavior, be that perpetually or hopefully just occasionally.

Equally hopeful is the thought that one or more family members will recognize and accept the rest for who and what they are, be that ugly warts or wonderful magic. All of that comes into play in "Encanto," Disney's sixtieth animated feature, this one the latest to fall into the musical category.

It's the tale of the Madrigal family and its various members and interpersonal relationships. The aforementioned magic is done in a literal sense as following the sacrificial death long ago of the family patriarch, the surviving mother and her three babies had a magical spell wash over them and the large manor that eventually rose from the rough beginning.

With that young madre, Alma (voiced by María Cecilia Botero), now an older abuela, a family ritual takes place when each bloodline family member reaches a certain age. It's then that the magic-infused manor imbues some sort of gift into the youngster, with the fun for the family being the surprise of what that gift might be.

Alma's daughter, Julieta (Angie Cepeda), got the power to heal injuries instantly. Two of her daughters likewise received their gifts, with Luisa (Jessica Darrow) being super strong and Isabela (Diane Guerrero) being perfect with the ability to cause flowers to grow and bloom. Then there the relatives such as Pepa (Carolina Gaitán) who causes the weather to happen; Dolores (Adassa) who's able to hear anything and everything, and Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz[) who can shape-shift.

But Julieta's youngest daughter, Mirabelle (Stephanie Beatriz), got the big goose egg accompanied by the game show buzzer sound. Nothing...nada...zilch. Along with that is the rumor that her "failure" also had something to do with her seer uncle, Bruno (John Leguizamo) disappearing with his old room now off-limits. Accordingly, she's something of a black sheep in the family, a.k.a. the underdog who will eventually prove her worth via her own sort of "magic." You know, all while she and others sing about that and other matters.

It's the classic outcast sort of story -- helmed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard and co-director Charise Castro Smith from a script by Bush and Smith -- as melded with a fun spin on the superhero genre, this time family-style, warts and all. The characters are well-drawn -- metaphorically and literally as the animation is terrific in all of its lushness, and the music is spot-on, which isn't much of a surprise considering the man behind the songs is none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda (who's had quite the busy year in this genre).

There's nothing groundbreaking here, but it's all done so well and entertainingly and engagingly that time slips by, as is by magic. And along the way, it delivers some important life lessons for the youngsters (and adults, for that matter), about getting along with family. And for all of that, the magic "Encanto" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed November 8, 2021 / Posted November 24, 2021

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