Friday, November 26, 2021

Encanto

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

During their clan’s darkest hour, matriarch Alma Madrigal is touched by a miracle through a magical candle that never loses its flicker. Along with it rises an enchanted house, very much alive and would be the center not just of the Madrigal family’s lives, but also of the town that flourishes next to it. The magic is also extended to each and every family member by giving them a special ability: son Bruno has visions of the future; daughter Pepa can control the weather; while Julieta cooks food that can heal any kind of ailment. The grandchildren also have gifts: Dolores has enhanced hearing; Camilo is a shapeshifter; Antonio can communicate with animals; Luisa has superhuman strength; and Isabela is the perfect granddaughter who can make flowers bloom. But there is one granddaughter whom the magic skips. Mirabel is ordinary, without powers, and is prophesized to put an end to the candle's magic.

Perhaps one criticism that can be levied on Encanto is due to its unfair advantage coming on the heels of Coco, Disney’s only other Latino-focused headliner to date. While marketed as a homage to Colombia, the obvious allusions are few and far between, like the ubiquitous placing of the country’s tricolors everywhere that just seems a bit contrived. To some, Encanto will never be Colombian enough as much as Coco is undeniably Mexican to the core. In effect, the Hispanic flavor comes across as generic Latin American.

But the film does pay tribute to the country through different ways, albeit more subtly. The diverse and representative ethnic mix of its characters, for example, is very Colombian. The magical realism innovated by Gabriel Garcia Márquez is also a recurring trope, but obviously made less evident because the main storyline is already heavily influenced by magic from the get-go. In any case, the homage to Colombia is plentiful, if you just know where to look.

The storyline is a bit farfetched, but heck, this is a Disney animated film. It comes with the territory. I never fully understood the significance of the entire losing the magic subplot, although it is understandable if you put yourself in the shoes of a family who has depended on such a tool for much of their existence. You can always substitute it with money or power if you want a more relatable issue. In the end, the moral lesson is made very clear. There is no greater magic than family. And you thought F9 had this year’s monopoly of the theme?

Being a musical, there are several songs that stand out such as the opening sequence “The Family Madrigal,” Luisa’s “Surface Pressure,” and even Grandpa’s heart wrenching “Dos Oruguitas”. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one definitive hit that could probably match Coco’s “Remember Me” or Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” or Frozen’s “Let It Go”. Well, Disney won’t always hit the jackpot as far as soundtracks are concerned. The important thing is that the songs complement the material well.

As for the box office, Encanto’s performance will still be affected by the ongoing pandemic despite opening during Thanksgiving. Thus, it is going to be quite unfair to compare it to other Disney animated hits before the new normal. Suffice it to say, though, that it has already made its mark by landing on top of the bunch during its opening weekend. What kind of box office legs it will have is anybody’s guess but without much competition from any other animated flick until December, it will probably make do of what it has.

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