ENCANTO Shows the Real Magic Is Family
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This is a portion of our review for ENCANTO. For the full review, click here.
ENCANTO is a lively animated musical about a girl living in an isolated magical village in Colombia where everyone in her family has a magical gift but her, but she becomes the only one who can save her family from losing its magic. Beautifully produced, funny and heartwarming, ENCANTO sounds like it could be filled with witchcraft, but the movie explicitly states that family is the real magic and contains overt Christian references, themes, images, and symbolism, which form the backdrop to the story and plot.
The movie’s opening is narrated by Mirabel, a young teenager living in an isolated, magical Colombian village. She explains that years ago, her grandmother and grandfather, their three new babies, and a few friends were menaced by some men and had to flee their village. They escaped into the forest. However, at a small river separating the deep forest from their village, the men were catching up to them. So, Mirabel’s grandfather went out to confront the men, and they took him away. In desperation, her grandmother said a prayer to a candle. The candle became magical and led them to a large magical house in a magical isolated valley nestled in the mountains.
The community grew into a thriving village. To their surprise, the villagers discovered that, when they turn five, every child receives a magical gift from the candle, including the grandmother’s triplets. Ten years ago, however, unlike her two sisters, Isabela and Luisa, and her mother, Julietta, Mirabel didn’t receive a magical gift.
Mirabel tries to keep a stiff upper lift and do everything for her family. For instance, she helps her 5-year-old cousin, Antonio, when he becomes scared and wonders if he won’t get a gift, like her. Deep down, however, Mirabel is unhappy and has begun to grow resentful toward her older sister, Isabela, who’s beautiful, can create flowers and plants out of thin air, and is about ready to marry.
When Mirabel has a vision of their magical house cracking up, none of her family believes her, especially her grandmother, Alma. Alma compares Mirabel to her son, Bruno, Mirabel’s Great Uncle, who acted strange and ran away from home years ago. Mirabel fears that the magic around them is in danger. So, she decides to find out what’s happening and find a way to fix it.
ENCANTO is beautifully produced. The story and characters are funny, lively, exciting, and heartfelt. The animation is vibrant and lovely. The songs are fused with strong Latin beats and a Colombian flare, so the rhythms are just as important as the melodies.
As explained in the production notes by one of the screenwriters, “An ‘Encanto’ is a term sometimes used for a place of magic and heightened spirituality, where magical or extraordinary things can happen.” So, although the story and plot have a lot of magical references, they are set against a Christian backdrop. Thus, as noted above, the magic begins when the grandmother prays before a candle. Also, though he only speaks maybe once, there’s a priest and a church in the village. The church has a cross on top of its steeple. Also, a brief flashback scene shows that the magical candle is actually the matrimonial love candle that was part of the marriage ceremony between the grandparents, which took place in a church.
Although Christianity provides the spiritual backdrop to ENCANTO, the movie’s worldview and premise focus on the moral and social importance of family. For example, in the end, Mirabel and her grandmother realize that family is the real magic in their lives. By the closing scene, the grandmother learns not to pigeonhole her family members, especially Mirabel, Bruno and Isabela, and Mirabel learns to stop feeling resentment toward her family members, especially her “perfect” sister Isabella, who have all these wonderful gifts.
ENCANTO paints a rich, rewarding, heartwarming portrait of an extended family.