'Encanto (2021)' is, for me, easily Disney's best film of 2021. It's vibrant, colourful and energetic from its opening moments, ultimately emerging as an utterly enchanting and enjoyable experience. It's full of life and passion, balancing its cavalcade of near-neon hues and fast-paced musical cues with some genuine character development and a strong underlying theme. Of course, the flick is highly derivative of similar fare, with its set-up and ultimate payoff feeling especially well-worn even within Disney's own filmography. The thing is, though, that just because it has been done before doesn't mean it isn't worth doing again, particularly if it is done as well as it is here. The piece packs quite a bit of emotional punch and manages to truly stick its cathartic landing, presenting a message that's relevant and resonant no matter who you are. It also includes a few innovations on the formula, primarily in that it doesn't really have an actual antagonist (though you could argue that the antagonist is societal and familial pressure born from generational trauma). The final few moments come incredibly close to undermining the entire point of the plot, but the piece is just about able to have its cake and eat it, too. It does this by avoiding the most obvious way in which it could undercut its central theme, instead opting to stick to its guns when it comes to the one element that really needs to be steadfast in order for its theming not to seem hypocritical. The picture is steeped in Columbian culture, which is a treat to see, and eludes to the violent displacement that many Columbian people have sadly experienced, allowing its genuine magic to be born from genuine tragedy. It isn't exactly dark overall - in fact, it actively reduces its more grim elements to near subtext - but it has a much deeper understanding of its central themes than you may expect. The flick is just a ton of fun, too. Its animation is downright beautiful at times, and its overall aesthetic is just really magical. Its musical sequences are spectacular, both in terms of their audio and their accompanying visuals, and they do a fantastic job of advancing the story while also providing an insight into the various characters they relate to. They're also just really enjoyable. However, because of their often overly complex nature (a symptom of the way in which Lin-Manuel Miranda writes almost all of his music), I can't see myself listening to them outside of the movie. They also aren't all that memorable. Still, it's worth noting that I've only seen the feature once and that the songs may grow on me over time. It's also worth noting that almost every character feels like a richly rounded individual, afforded just enough attention so that they stand out and appear to have depth without detracting from the protagonist's internal journey. A handful of characters are given proper arcs, which are satisfying and appreciated even if some are housed entirely within a single song, and the affable hero (who seems much older than fifteen, more like a young adult) is afforded the opportunity to grow over the course of the entire affair. Her journey is one of self-actualisation, and I like how the narrative frames her development through the way she is perceived rather than the way she actually is (mild thematic spoilers to follow). She isn't 'the chosen one' or anything like that, she's simply herself and that's all she needs to be. There's never anything 'wrong' with her and she's pretty much always in the right; her journey involves both herself and her family learning to appreciate her for who she is rather than for what she can or can't do, something which ultimately applies to each member of the household (end of mild thematic spoilers). Again, this isn't groundbreaking, but it's a resonant and well-realised arc that's executed successfully enough that its culmination is actually quite affecting. Overall, this is a satisfying and entertaining animated musical. It's full of infectious energy and is just a blast pretty much from start to finish. It has a handful of plot problems I haven't touched on, but they aren't really worth mentioning because they have very little impact on the experience. It's a really enjoyable and enchanting affair that should make you smile and might make you cry. 8/10.