It might sound a bit oxymoronic, but ask any wizard, witch, or Istar and they will tell you that magic needs to follow a certain set of rules. What these rules are varies from work to work, but the underlying principle should stay the same: perform a certain action, expect a certain reaction.
When this doesn’t happen, the illusion of a fictional world being possible is shattered and the real force holding that universe together can be seen behind the cracks. Disney’s Encanto lacks a “why” for most of its fantastical narrative of events, leaving one to question the internal logic of the magic, but it is a predictably fun animated feature from the House of Mouse despite this lack of clear cause-and-effect.
Encanto is the story of a more literal magical house and the spectacularly gifted Madrigal family that lives within. When the magic of the miracle starts to fade, it falls to the only non-superpowered family member, the quirky Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz of Brooklyn Nine-Nine fame) to save it.
The only problem is that the why of anything is never clearly explained in this movie. Why was the magic fading? What actions cause the resolution of the film to happen? Does Mirabel actually do anything to save it, or is she just along for the ride? Maybe I’m missing something, but this movie left me confused as to what exactly the plot was. You don’t need to explain the magic, but maybe tell me why certain things happen.
Perhaps the house and the magic are there to simply act as an allegory for the themes the movie explores, such as acceptance of others as they are, being more than the gifts you’ve been blessed with, etc. These themes were welcome and supplement what might have been an otherwise underwhelming plot. Helping matters are the lively soundtrack written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the beautiful animation, and an endearing cast of characters. It is a large cast, too, with a great number of main characters that are nonetheless expertly juggled so everyone has a chance to shine and maybe even evolve a bit.
Less welcome are a couple of elements that made it feel like Disney was sometimes going through a checklist of expectations and dutifully crossing things off.
There are a couple of quirky animal sidekicks that really only exist to sell a plushy or two at the Disney Store, for instance, and if you couldn’t see the ending coming a mile away I would call you incredibly nearsighted. But that’s okay. If some of this movie was created by a committee, it’s a committee that clearly knows what it is doing at this point.
Despite its flaws, Encanto is another home run by the folks at Walt Disney Studios. Did you expect anything less?
Encanto is now available on Disney+.