Visually, Disney's Encanto sets the bar high for the studio's future animated efforts. It's cheerful, funny, kind, and astoundingly beautiful. The film's lush South American setting splashes the screen with deep purples, confident pinks, and buttery yellows, making it difficult to debate the splendour on display. But while Encanto may be Disney's most vibrant entry in years, it never quite comes into its own as a story and an experience.
With their magic ebbing and their dynamics tested, the Madrigal family starts to despair. Gifted with magic years prior, the ever-growing family maintains a house in the jungle, a house that is imbued with the magic its owners were given. When the time comes for hopeful Mirabel Madrigal to receive her gift, the tradition disrupts itself by refusing to bestow Maribel with a magical ability.
A critical element that's lacking here is the music. Lin Manuel-Miranda's songs are catchy and insistent, but they don't feel tailored to their performers as his other Disney collaborations did. Dwayne Johnson belting You're Welcome in Moana felt cosmically perfect, and Miranda tapped into the character's pride and inflated ego with the grace and ease of a songwriter who understood his subject. Here, the music is literally written about these characters rather than for them. Welcome to the Family Madrigal is a fine opening number, if only because it efficiently introduces a large cast and gives viewers a taste of the movie's sense of humour.
Luckily, while its music disappoints, Encanto boasts enough passion and personality to keep fidgety viewers distracted. Most of its characters are fleshed out and likeable, and even the more troublesome members of the Madrigal family find ways to redeem themselves. Plucky young Mirabel never endears herself the way Moana or Judy Hopps so immediately did, nor are the stakes ever high enough to test our connections with the other characters. Consequently, Encanto isn't nearly as resonant as what came before.
Encanto is fun, funny, and unquestionably good-hearted, but if you're hoping it's the next Disney classic, you may be disappointed.
ENCANTO is released in UK cinemas from November 24th and on Disney+ December 24th