Though Omicron Wildcat Welcomed us into 2022, so did Encanto’s “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which recently hit the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It surpassed Frozen’s “Let It Go,” which peaked at No. 5, and became the first Disney song from an animated movie to reach No. 1 since Aladdin's “A Whole New World.” One of the most colorful and heart-warming Disney animated films since Up, Encanto follows a young Colombian girl named Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) as she aims to heal the relationships within her family, bringing a blend of Latin music, vibrant colors and a wide range of Colombian representation to life on screen.
The movie’s soundtrack is filled with great songs but there are two that truly stand out alongside Bruno’s stellar number: “Surface Pressure” and “Dos Oruguitas.” The song “Surface Pressure,” sung by the character Luisa (Jessica Darrow), is about the pressure she feels from being Mirabel’s older sister and helping anyone she can with her gift of physical strength. “Dos Oruguitas” is a tragic love song entirely in Spanish and the background sound to the unveiling of Abuela’s tragic past and the loss of her husband.
Encanto’s incredible musical score is the work of none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the songs are classically his style. In fact, on TikTok, there’s a trend that mixes Hamilton’s “Guns and Ships” with Encanto’s opening number, “The Family Madrigal,” which are very stylistically similar. Also circulating on TikTok is the theory that Miranda wrote Bruno’s parts, which are in his vocal range, for himself, given that he cast himself as the protagonist in his own musical Hamilton. Personally, I believe this theory to be true and yet, it is a blessing that Miranda wasn’t cast as Bruno. John Leguizamo, Bruno’s voice actor, did an incredible job of bringing Bruno’s awkward yet lovable character to life. Miranda’s musical talents are better spent writing.
Beneath the classic Disney fairytale style lies a heart-melting story that uncloaks the pain behind generational trauma. Abuela (María Cecilia Botero), Mirabel’s grandmother, lost her husband as their family fled a group of soldiers. Her husband’s sacrifice imbued Abuela’s candle with the family's “encanto,” which translates to charm or glamor in English. As a result, the candle’s magic gives each of Abuela’s children and grandchildren a magic power when they come of age.
Abuela feels the pressure to keep the family magic alive and, consequently, her children and grandchildren feel that they must maximize the potential of their gifts and use them to help their community. Abuela, not the soldiers, is the true antagonist, as she’s the one who puts pressure on each of her family members to act in a specific way. She puts pressure on Luisa to carry too much physical and metaphorical weight. She makes Mirabel’s oldest sister Isabela (Diane Guerrero), who can create flowers, feel as if she has to be perfect. And she makes Mirabel feel the need to make up for her lack of a magical gift. Even Bruno – the one we don’t talk about – is blamed for bringing bad luck to his family or anyone’s future he tells. As it goes in his song, “Your fate is sealed when your prophecy is read.”
Eventually, the family reaches a breaking point, losing both their magical gifts and house, and Mirabel joins forces with Bruno to save them. Her real gift becomes apparent: giving emotional support and healing her broken family. My favorite full circle moment is when Mirabel opens the door to the Madrigals’ rebuilt home as she restores the lost magic. She finally gets to open a magical door like the rest of her family members did to receive their gifts – something she missed out on as a child.
Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of the movie is its representation of Colombia's diversity. Additionally, Luisa represents a more muscular and buff feminine body type, something that is rarely portrayed in a positive light on screen but that the movie manages to accomplish effortlessly. Encanto conveys the strong message that Latine identity can look different on everyone.
For its celebration of family, vibrant colors and representation, Encanto is a must-watch if you’re looking for an uplifting story that will make you cry and great songs that will get stuck in your head for weeks.