Billy Jepma’s review published on Letterboxd:
There’s really a lot here to love. The animation is reliably gorgeous, and I adore how magical the musical numbers are—the movie really takes advantage of the fact that it’s animated and embraces an appropriately colorful, larger-than-life style that totally worked for me. It worked so well, that I almost didn’t notice how rough some of the lyrics were in the songs. But almost is the key word, because as wonderfully vibrant as the musical moments are, the songs are hit-and-miss lyrically. Stellar arrangements and music, but Miranda’s signature lyrical style feels more forced than it should, and sometimes struggles to fit into the music around it. When it works, though, it works, and there are at least 2 songs I loved, with others varying from “good” to “eh.”
The heart of the movie is its characters, obviously, which is where Encanto works best. I really vibed with the different family members, and found myself wanting to see more of every single one of them, which is a far better alternative than the opposite. The dynamics in the family aren’t as well-rounded as I hoped for, but the central message is really good…when it’s allowed to be.
Like most of Disney’s stories, the themes work great on paper, but falter in the execution. And Encanto is all over the place thematically. It introduced some heavy, important material, but rushes through the conflict and plops a far-too-clean resolution on the table. It’s probably unfair to expect a children’s movie to interrogate toxic family systems, but the script still misses out on a lot of the opportunities the story presents. Maybe the message will resonate with the younger viewers, which I hope it does, because it’s a good message. I just wish the movie took it as seriously as it deserves, and didn’t gloss over it so much. The ending is especially guilty of this, as it seems to almost counteract its prevailing message?
Obviously, I’ve got some mixed feelings on this. But I enjoyed it a lot, nonetheless. The voice cast are terrific, the animation splendid, and there are plenty of standout moments, big and small, that resonated with me. I just can’t shake the disappointment of seeing Disney’s movies regularly rely on the path of least resistance and, as a result. undermine their own storytelling abilities.