Friday, October 07, 2022

Review: Encanto

We're excited to be taking our friends' little one, E, to see Disney on Ice's Frozen & Encanto! While we're familiar with movie Frozen, we had yet to watch Encanto. It was time. A $3.99 Amazon Prime rental later, we were officially up to speed on the movie.

When the movie finished I turned to Shira confused: what had we just watched? Sure, the music was catchy. And to Disney's credit, the diversity of characters was delightful. But what was the point?

As I rolled the movie around in my head, I was impressed that Disney gave me so much to think about. It seems the film wants to wrestle with the challenge of feeling gift-less when you're surrounded by people who are anything but. I wasn't expecting this topic, but it's a worthy one and I applaud Disney for taking it on.

I like how the film kept true to its message by not bestowing a magical ability to the main character, Mirabel. Had it done so, it would have undercut the very theme that it was highlighting: people's gifts come in many forms. While your siblings or classmates may have a clear talent, that doesn't mean that you won't discover yours in time. And even more importantly, we are all more than one bright-shining ability.

Even more unexpectedly, the movie focuses on the flip side of Mirabel's problem: the challenges that come with having a well defined gift. This aspect of the plot brought to mind the first time I heard Kelsea Ballerini's song Homecoming Queen.

Really, I thought, as the song started to play: now I need to feel sorry for the homecoming queen? As someone as far from high school royalty as possible, it struck me as odd to write a song about a kid in school who seemed to have it the most together. By the end of the song I realized just how thoughtless I had been and how meaningful Kelsea's song was. Gifts are great, but as Encanto and Homecoming Queen show, they come with burdens.

While Enancto has catchy songs and takes place in a magical land, the themes it deals with are quite relatable. For the kid who has a math-wiz brother and gymnast star sister and struggles to see how he is special, Encanto provides a fascinating perspective. Your gifts may take longer to discover or may be different than your siblings, but they are no less important. And while you're at it, cut your siblings some slack, as they'll need it too.

In this respect, Encanto brought to mind another kid's film: Inside Out. In the most disarming and kid friendly way possible, Inside Out explains how messy our feelings can be, and how normal the process of having them is. Like Encanto, these are powerful lessons delivered in an entertaining and accessible package.

We all struggle with figuring out our place in the world and how we're special. And being reminded that we're more than our gifts, or lack there of, is a powerful lesson worth repeating. Well played Disney.

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