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Movie Review: Encanto

I love that Disney is actively pushing and diversifying its female heroines. The most recent Disney-Pixar: Encanto is everything I wish I had seen as a little girl. Encanto is (yes, I must admit) better than Raya and the Last Dragon in that it has crazy good songs! By the one and only Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In the Heights, Moana…). We Don’t Talk About Bruno and Surface Pressure are my two favorite songs from this deck.

My “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” Piano Cover


Somewhat a tribute to the book One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez’, Encanto is about a magical family called the Madrigals. Three generations live together in one house (sounds familiar, anyone?) and of course as you can imagine in such a living situation family dynamics are likely to explode (which it did). Without someone taking initiative to patch it up together, all you’d have is a ruin, both figuratively and literally.

Enter, Mirabel Madrigal, is the only person in her family that is “average” (like Number Seven in Umbrella Academy but we all know the reality behind that!). She didn’t get a magical gift at the age of 5 when everyone else got theirs. As a result Mirabel becomes the brunt of Abuela’s (her matriarchal grandmother) insecurity about their magic was running out. Mirabel has a vision that their home starts to cracks, so she investigates deeper into her family. One by one hidden truths are revealed, family relationships are restored, and their magic comes back strong.

A happy ending with a terribly sad beginning – we get to see more of Abuela’s backstory at the very end… Lots of tears from me, even on the 2nd time watching.

Side Characters in Encanto

There are a host of fun and also layered side characters, from Dolores the gossip to sweetheart Antonio who can talk to animals. Of course, the one nobody wants to talk about – the prodigal uncle Bruno is just a riot of a character. I like how the directors immediately inserted the mystery about Bruno in the beginning song, giving just a bit of foreshadow of the plot. Luisa, the muscular and bulky oldest sister is super strong. But under all that strength is a weight that’s tip-tip-tipping on her. Her song Surface Pressure strikes me as a very modern and adult. Yet it was a great way to introduce the importance of mental health and self-care to kids. Thanks to Hercu-lady.

Isabella, Mirabel’s second oldest sister is also an interesting character study. She starts off as the classic pretty and perfect girl. Her gift is being able to produce beautiful flowers to decorate anything pink and purple. We eventually learn she hates being perfect all the time, and actually wants to be a bit naughty. YES! You know that’s the stuff I like! Other members of the family include Pepa who can control weather and her husband Felix, Julieta (Mirabel’s mother) who can heal any ailments with her food with her husband Augustin, and Camilo the family clown who can impersonate anyone. There isn’t really a plot outside of the family members, so these characters drive the show.

Last of all, it’s an animated film and the animation is SPOT ON especially with the dancing and choreography . The way the 3D figures move, the lighting, the coloring, is all very realistic. Apparently there is a new technology Disney used called the eye-shader which heightens emotions through the eyes. Let me tell ya, it worked. At times I even forgot it’s an animation! A must see for the whole family.

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Movie Review: Cruella

What a doll of a movie! This retelling of one of Disney’s creepiest villains Cruella Devil, is a party vibe fun watch. I mean, as if two Emmas (Emma Stone and Emma Thompson) is not enough star blinking power, we get a Devil Wears Prada high fashion mixed with Six of Crows thievery mood. This review has mild spoilers, so continue at your discretion.

The Hair

Yes, Cruella’s signature is her half black half white hair which you can tell from miles away. This hair got a lot of symbolic attention which was frankly quite brilliant. When Cruella was younger (under her birth name of Estella), she was already wild. The little girl got into trouble in school for defending her friend Anita, and beating up the guys who bullied them.

However, after her mother’s tragic death, Estella had to go into hiding (or risk living in orphanages). She ran into two thug boys Jasper and Horace, and they become a team. Estella hides her identity by dying her hair red. When the three grow up, Jasper helps Estella land a job in the fashion industry, something Estella had always dreamed of.

Her dreams become nightmarish however when Estella discovers horrible truths behind her boss, the Baroness. Bent on revenge, Estella goes back to her true self and this is symbolized with the return of the black and white hair. She renames herself Cruella and upstages the London fashion world with her daring antics and wild sense of style.

The Family Card

At one point in the movie, Cruella gets carried away and becomes a bit manic. I really liked this part because I agree that any extreme is dangerous. Moderate is the new cool. It’s great to discover (or rediscover) your true self, and to show that to the world, but it’s not cool if it happens at the cost of the relationships which matter most to you.

When Cruella comes to her senses (shout out to Emma Stone’s fabulous acting) she finds a moderate middle between Cruella and Estella and rallies her thug family back together.

Cruella makes it the second Disney movie this year which gets 5 stars from me- the first was Raya and the Last Dragon.