For some reason, humans have a fixation on numbers ending in the numbers five and zero. They seem to make a big deal on this numbers, whether in the case of anniversaries or in general. To that end, one would think that when Disney released its 60th animated feature, Encanto, late this year, it would have been a hugely memorable work from the studio. Sadly that did not prove to be the case. Now Disney is hoping to give the movie a new life with its upcoming home release Dec. 24 on digital and Jan. 26. The movie’s home release on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD combo pack) adds slightly to its appeal, but only slightly. That is due in large part to its featured bonus content, which will be discussed shortly. The bonus content is in fact both a positive and a negative, leading into the movie’s one major unavoidable negative, its story, which will be addressed a little later. The musical numbers and cast’s voice work comes together to make things even more concerning for the movie. Sadly when these items are considered collectively, they make Disney’s Encanto just as forgettable in its home release as in its recent theatrical run.
Walt Disney Studios’ Encanto is an anniversary mark for the studio that could have been so much better. That was already proven in the movie’s theatrical run. The movie’s forthcoming home release further supports that statement. That is proven in part through the bonus content featured in said presentation. The bonus content is expansive to say the least. There is lots of background in the way of explaining the story’s focus on family. The is also plenty of focus on Disney’s continued drive to make one of its movies as true to the culture that it represents as possible. That bonus content that centers of mirroring the people and culture of Colombia is engaging and entertaining. The content that centers on family is where the problems start to appear. In watching this content (which is extensive in itself) the movie’s creative heads talk plenty about the noted focus. If in fact the story is all about family, then one cannot help but wonder why so much of the story is spent focused on the Madrigal family’s “ugly duckling,” Mirabel. Not to get too far off track here, but the story spends quite a bit of time on her and making her extended family more background dressing than actually important cast.
On another note, the bonus content spends what feels like an inordinate amount of time focusing on the movie’s musical content. Now for those who have not already seen Encanto, Lin Manuel Miranda (who had his stamp on Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns as well as the uber popular Hamilton and In The Heights among many other stories) plays a big role in this movie’s musical content. As a matter of fact, one cannot help but wonder how much creative control he had in the movie’s musical side, since it gets more time than the movie’s story, getting back on the subject at hand. So much of the movie’s bonus content centers on the movie’s musical side, that viewers cannot help but feel like Disney and all involved were just trying to distract viewers from all of the plot holes and other problems posed throughout the story. This shows in its own way how the bonus content does offer some engagement, but is also just as problematic as it is positive.
Encanto’s trailers made it seem like the movie was going to be some big adventure for its lead character, Mirabel. The reality is that the story is anything but. Rather, the story is in question more a coming-of-age piece than action. Mirabel has to figure out why on the night that the youngest member of the Madrigal family receives his magical gift, the magic in the family’s candle starts to fade. No one believes what she tells them at first, leading her to go on her mission of sorts. As it turns out (no to give away too much), the reason for the fade is linked back to the clan in general. Again not to give away too much here, but audiences realize that perhaps the reality is that the Madrigals who had magical gifts were taking their gifts for granted and just had to come to that realization in the end.
This is where things get problematic. In setting up the story, the movie’s writers fail to really fully explain how the candle got its magic. Audiences know that the candle came into being after Abuela Alma’s (Maria Cecilia Botero) husband was killed by some not so nice people. From there though, there is no explanation of the magic’s candle. Was it something tied to the culture of Colombia? We do not know. What’s more, the identities of the men who killed Abuela Alma’s husband is never fully revealed, either. As if this is not problem enough, the whole issue of Bruno and his psychic gift playing into the story just seems so random in itself. It is as if the writers were just putting all of this together as they went along and hoped that it would stick, which sadly it did not.
Adding even more to the problems is what happens in the story’s end. The candle is not there, but the magic is back, as are the magical powers of the Madrigal clan. So then was the candle never magic to begin with? Again, those who have praised this movie either ignored this and so many other problems, or they were paid for positive reviews. Yes, this critic went there.
If all of this is not enough, the semi-climactic moment when Maribel and Abuela Alma confront one another, and then later share their feelings, leading to the final act, just seems so contrived. Maribel stood up to Alma and told her that everything that happened was her (Alma’s) fault. Alma then later tells Maribel that she was right, to which Maribel – after hearing Alma’s sob story – backed down and said she was in the wrong. This is just so contrived. The young woman had become empowered, only to stand down from the family’s matriarch. This is just not believable nor realistic. Between this and everything else noted here, it should be crystal clear why this movie’s story is in itself just so much a failure. There is little if anything to like other than the subtle, nearly hidden messages about appreciating ourselves and others regardless of who we are and what are our “gifts.” Of course for all of the problems that the story poses in itself, things only get worse from here.
Looking at all of this, it should be clear why the story featured in Encanto is just as problematic as the bonus content that accompanies it in its home release. The story centers on one character even though in the bonus content, the movie’s creative heads reiterate time and again that the story is all about family. Add in all the musical cues tossed in (again they are the central focus among the bonus content) and the story’s plot holes and problems become even more concerning, as do the bonus features themselves. All of this in mind, it is still only a part of the trouble with the movie’s presentation. The noted musical cues and the cast’s voice work are also problematic.
As noted, the musical numbers featured throughout the movie are everywhere. Sometimes they show up at such random times, as if Miranda and the movie’s crew and creative heads just decided to throw them in for what they thought was “good measure” since they didn’t have any other ideas to flesh out the story.
The voice cast’s work is troubling in that none of the cast’s work does anything to make any of the characters memorable. Yes, Maribel is supposed to be the story’s lead. Yes, voice actress Stephanie Beatriz deserves applause for her work as she makes Maribel a strong lead. Other than that though, she doesn’t do much to make her memorable. Though, that circles back to the writing. The script does not really give Maribel much to develop as a character. Even the work of John Leguizamo (the Ice Age franchise, Spawn, Moulin Rouge) here when he is finally introduced does little to help the story. Though, again, that is because he is brought in so late and is given so little screen time from there on. It is like the Madrigal family is there, but that is about it. None of the voice cast really brings anything major and memorable to the table, but again that is because the story does not really provide much if any opportunity for character development. So once again we see the problems with the story. It is all tied in together, and in considering this along with the movie’s other problems and the problems, the whole makes the movie overall such a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has released in recent years.
Walt Disney Studios’ forthcoming home release of Encanto does little to improve on the movie from its recent, brief theatrical run. The improvement is minimal, with the movie’s bonus content proving only slightly engaging and entertaining. At the same time, they prove problematic because it seems like the extensive focus on the movie’s musical content is an attempt by all involved to distract audiences from all of the plot holes and problems in the story. Speaking of those problems and plot holes, they are everywhere throughout this story. The noted musical content and the issues raised through the cast’s voice work add their own problems. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make the movie a work that sadly is not the “anniversary” presentation that it could have been for Walt Disney Studios.
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