Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir Jared Bush, Byron Howard
scr Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush
prd Yvett Merino, Clark Spencer
voices Stephanie Beatriz, Maria Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Wilmer Valderrama, Carolina Gaitan, Mauro Castillo, Angie Cepeda, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma
release US/UK 24.Nov.21
21/US Disney 1h39

beatriz leguizamo valderrama
Showing with:
Far From the Tree

Is it streaming?

antonio and mirabel with the family
Disney heads to Colombia for a sparky animated adventure that's infused with magical realism and a lively Andean beat. It's gorgeously designed and rendered to a very high standard, flooding the screen with colours and textures, as well as some wondrously cinematic set-pieces. And the story carries a lovely kick of emotion as it explores the complexities of feeling like we don't fit into our families and communities.
In a lush mountain village, the Madrugal family occupies a living house. Abuela (Botero) presides over her rambunctious collection of children and grandchildren, presenting each of them with a magical gift at a key moment in their childhood. Although Mirabel (Beatriz) never got her gift, and struggles to get on with life when everyone around her seems to have such a clear purpose. When she sees that the house is cracking, her investigation points to her missing Uncle Bruno (Leguizamo). But everyone is afraid to speak of him because his gift is seeing the future.
Since each character has a distinct ability, they're animated and voiced with bursts of personality. Several sing their own catchy songs (by Lin-Manuel Miranda), and a few stand out brightly, including Mirabel's annoying sister Isabela (Guerrero), whose too-happy life bursts with flowers; sister Luisa (Darrow), who has super-strength; and Aunt Pepa (Gaitan), who brings her own weather system. There's also cute youngster Antonio (Cabot-Conyers), frightened to face his own gifting ceremony.

Animators maintain an artful aesthetic while making the imagery almost photorealistic. The characters have a remarkably realistic sense of physical weight, and the engaging soulfulness behind their eyes echoes in skilfully unflashy voice work. Along the way, several big action sequences hark back to classic movies while feeding in new ideas. These scenes are designed to get our pulses racing, and it works largely because the narrative is already so involving and the songs so wonderfully expressive. Especially Sebastian Yatra's gorgeous ballad Dos Oruguitas.

Feelings of inadequacy fill Maribel's journey, which makes her very easy to identify with. So her discoveries as events unfold resonate powerfully. The central idea is that everyone has their own issues, and it's an illusion that others have their lives much more put-together. And while each person may have his or her role to play in a community, the more important things happen when we work together, seeing our own strengths and weaknesses in the context of those around us. This is beautifully woven through the story with only a hint of preachiness.

cert pg themes, violence 18.Nov.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall