'Encanto' review: Charming family story finds strength in community

Disney animated feature comes alive with songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

They're not quite superheroes, but they definitely possess powers: superhuman strength, the ability to speak to animals, the power of shape-shifting, and so on. 

The Madrigals, the family at the center of Disney's enchanting "Encanto," all have some sort of super-abilities, except for Mirabel, the lead character, whose quest to find her power gives this colorfully animated adventure its steam. 

Stephanie Beatriz voices the lead character in "Encanto."

"Encanto" is Disney's 60th animated feature and its second of 2021, following March's "Raya and the Last Dragon." It tells a relatable story of an outcast desperately trying to find her place in the world, and unfolds against a rich backdrop of family and community, with a strong crop of songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda to lift it to the sky. 

Mirabel is voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, and she feels less-than because her magical ability remains a mystery to her. Her sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow) is more powerful than the Hulk, her other sister Isa (Diane Guerrero) can make flowers bloom anywhere. They use these strengths not to fight off crime but to better their town (they reside in the mountains of Colombia), and their abilities are kept alive by a candle that flickers in the upstairs of their home. 

When Mirabel sees the candle is in danger of going out she seeks out her uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), a clairvoyant who can see the future. This power landed him in excommunication from the family, but he holds a powerful key to bringing the family back together, and to help Mirabel find her place within it. 

"Encanto," which is directed by "Zootopia's" Jared Bush and Byron Howard (and co-directed by Charise Castro Smith), finds its strength in its community tapestry; the Madrigals are pillars of their town who quite literally hold everything together, and there's a sense of fellowship at the center of the film. The vivid animation style and bold, bright colors dance across the screen just as nimbly as Mirabel's expressive brown eyes light it up. "Encanto" is a tale of discovery that is familiar but welcome within the Disney family. You don't have to look far to find its superpowers. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Encanto'

GRADE: B+

Rated PG: for some thematic elements and mild peril

Running time: 109 minutes

In theaters