Walt Disney Studios debuted its latest CG flick this weekend in theaters nationwide in the form of Encanto. While the weekend is all about being thankful, this movie sadly gives audiences little for which to be thankful. This is despite all the praise that so many have given the movie. One cannot The reality of Encanto is that it gets everything wrong that its predecessors Coco (2017) and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) got right beginning with the story, which will be discussed shortly. The various musical cues thrown into the story add to the story’s problems and will be examined a little later. Last but hardly least of import here is work of the voice cast. All three items noted are key in their own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make the movie a forgettable offering from Disney.
Walt Disney Studios’ brand new CG movie, Encanto is a disappointing new offering from the once fabled (no pun intended) studio. The movie is rife with problems, beginning with its story. The movie’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 in this story, 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.
The musical cues that are thrown into the story make matters even worse for the presentation. The musical cues in question are handled in this movie by none other than Lin Manuel Miranda. His trademark influence on the music that is so familiar in other movies on which he has worked is just as evident here. There are musical numbers that blend elements of hip-hop and singing. There are also moments in which they also exhibit such clear similarity to works from Moana (another Disney movie on which Miranda worked and did much better, too). The thing here is that at some points, the musical numbers are just so random in their placement. As if the lack of fluidity in the story was not enough, those often random cues throw things off even more. What’s more, they just pale in comparison stylistically to the song cues crafted by the famed Sherman brothers – Robert and Richard – who crafted songs for some of Disney’s greatest classic movies. Making things even more problematic here is that the cues are so many that they make the movie’s one hour, 49 minute run time seem even longer. This is nothing new for Miranda, either. His equally multitudinous song cues in another Disney movie, Mary Poppins Returns (2018) bogged that movie down, too and caused it to drag so much. So again, the musical content featured in this movie do more to hurt its presentation just as much as the story itself. It still is not the last of the movie’s problems, either. The work of the voice cast is problematic in its own right to 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 story’s other problems and the problems posed by the story’s musical numbers, the whole makes the movie overall such a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has released in recent years.
Walt Disney Studios’ new CG family flick Encanto has had a lot of hype behind it ahead of its debut this weekend. Sadly though, the movie does not live up to the hype even though so many critics out there have lauded it so much. Either those who have lauded ignored all of its problems, or they were paid to provide positive reviews. The movie fails in large part because of its story. The story is just all over the place and is rife with plot holes. It is like the writers just threw the story together and hoped people would overlook everything that went wrong therein. The movie’s musical numbers make for even more problems for its presentation. That is because they bog down the movie and leave it feeling longer than it is, which again is nothing new for a movie in which Lin Manuel Miranda is involved. The work of the movie’s voice cast puts the final nail in the coffin so to speak. While the cast does a good job in its respective roles, no one actor’s part really stands out. The thing is that is also because the script does not really do anything to allow for any real character development among the Madrigal family. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie. All things considered, they leave the movie a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has produced by itself in recent years.
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