MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Encanto opened in theaters around Thanksgiving last year at a time when most families chose to remain at home for pandemic-related reasons. When everyone finally caught up with this animated movie on Disney+, they discovered a delightful musical fantasy about a multigenerational family who spend a lot of their time living inside their house.
Granted, it is a special house with a name – Casita – and moving floorboards, shutters, a flight of stairs that turn into a slide, and a personality all its own. One character describes it as a place of wonder (Encanto). The house has doors that open up to magical worlds including a jungle, a cave, tunnels and a tower.
Inside the house live the Madrigal family from Columbia who were forced to flee their village fifty years ago during a time of violent oppression. Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero) loses her husband in their pilgrimage but saves her three children and a magic candle that not only brings their group of refugees to a safe place of sanctuary but provides the enchantment for their house (which bestows special powers to every member of the family and their offspring). The three generations of Madrigals share their blessings with the people in town. These gifts include superhuman strength, super hearing, healing through food, floral creations, shape-shifting and control of the weather.
But not young Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), whose rite of passage celebration revealed no special talent. This hasn’t stopped her from showing love for her little cousin Antonio (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) when it’s his turn to discover his gift. But no matter how hard she tries to get along with her mother and sisters, there is an underlying tension and awkwardness.
One day Mirabel receives a shocking vision of cracks appearing in the foundation of the house. When she shares this insight with her family, there is widespread disbelief and dismissal. As she attempts to learn more about this mystery, she goes on a journey of discovery through secret passages of the house which will lead her to a long-lost brother, and a gentle, symbolic death and resurrection for her family.
Only Disney could create a storyline that is both serious and slight, but that’s what makes Encanto a great family film. You can simply enjoy the colors, the costumes, and the positive celebration of the culture of Columbia (including coffee!) while dancing to the upbeat songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. You can also discuss the topics of diversity, community, family, and church. We have Madrigals, too!
Just don’t talk about Bruno.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Five halos: The joys of a community in which individual gifts are valued and everyone has an important part to play sure sounds like church to me.
One pitchfork: Implied loss and violence in flashback scenes; sibling rivalry.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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