While on my flight from Tokyo to Guam I finally saw Encanto, which had a strange film run in that it was prematurely yanked from the theaters, hurting its gross, and being put on Disney+, which I do not have and have no interest in ever getting. Having generally enjoyed the soundtrack to the movie and its surprising success on the pop charts, it was interesting to see the movie, which focuses on the travails of the family Madrigal as the “magic” that they have wielded for generations starts to fail in the midst of the fracturing of the family, and the only non-gifted member of the family, Mirabel, has to try to figure out what is happening to the family and how to make things right. The repercussions of this are bringing to light the truths about the family and its complicated relationships, and all of the characters demonstrate growth throughout in what ends up being a pageant of rebirth and reconciliation.
One of the notable aspects of this film is its near absence of villains. Mirabel’s resentfulness, as well as the hostility she has with her “perfect” sister Isabella, and her overly controlling grandmother, are all pretty normal registers and though there are elements of negativity in some of these portrayals, none of the main characters is on the side of evil. They are imperfect but pictured as being generally on the side of good. In fact, the only villainous characters that one can find are the rather indistinctly portrayed murderers in the “Dos Origuitas” montage that end up slaughtering many of the people in the town, including Abuela’s husband, which results in the magical protection being given to the town and its people. In the end, the magic returns, but the way to the town is now open, suggesting that it is time that people learn to accept and deal with the outside world as well as in the magical realism that one can find in it.