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Encanto review: Disney’s 60th animated feature is a vibrant, dynamic delight

The new film – which takes place in a magical version of Colombia – is a heartwarming and lively family affair.

Encanto
4.0 out of 5 star rating

Encanto – which arrives in UK cinemas on 24th November – holds the distinction of being Disney Animation Studios’ 60th release, and fans of the House of Mouse will be pleased to hear that it is a film very much worthy of that milestone. Inspired in part by the magical realism of writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, it’s a vibrant and rousing exploration of family and Colombian culture – for my money, the best Disney Classics release since at least Moana.

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The film introduces audiences to the Madrigal clan – a large extended family who live a colourful life in an enchanted house in Colombia, beloved and respected by all the residents of their mountaintop village. Our way into the “family Madrigal” is Mirabel, a young woman who takes us through the magic of the house and her family in a terrifically energetic, toe-tapping opening number – one of many earworms in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s delightfully catchy soundtrack.

Mirabel is clearly enamoured with her life and her fellow Madrigals, but there is one problem: whereas all her siblings and cousins have been blessed with special gifts, such as super-strength or control of the weather, she is not so lucky. Indeed, at the coming of age ceremony at which she was expected to receive her gift, Mirabel instead faced humiliation, and though she is still treated with love by her family, she nonetheless struggles a little with the perception that she is something of a black sheep. However, when she discovers that the house’s magic is mysteriously fading – it falls to Mirabel to save the day, while also learning about the value of self-worth with a little help from soothsayer and family outcast Bruno.

First and foremost, the film is wonderful to look at – bright and lively in a way that is genuinely quite transporting, with the Colombian setting marking Encanto out as fairly fresh when compared to other Disney flicks. The character design is as good as you’d expect from a studio releasing its 60th film, with a handful of memorable characters including Mirabel’s super-strong sister Luisa and the amusingly world-weary Bruno, while The Madrigal home is also anthropomorphised, given real personality by some inventive and sometimes dazzling animation. The voice cast – made up largely of actors with Colombian heritage such as Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo and Diane Guerrero – is also great, imbuing the characters with real warmth, humour and heart.

Of course, there’s not anything especially revolutionary about the story itself – much of which is covering fairly familiar territory – but it covers it in a way that will be heartwarming and thrilling for younger viewers, with the specificity of its magical setting and the lively, dynamic musical numbers making it an easy world to get lost in. And there are also some really rather touching moments throughout, as Mirabel navigates her relationships with various family members – not all of whom, it transpires, are quite as perfect as their special gifts would make it seem. It’s that emotional core that really makes the film sing – teaching a valuable lesson about family and self-worth that will no doubt chime with many of the film’s young target audience.

Disney’s Encanto will be released in cinemas on Wednesday 24th November in the US and Friday 26th November in the UK. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 for a year now

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Looking for something else to watch? Check out our list of the best movies on Disney Plus and best shows on Disney Plus, or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.