I hope this delightful film will spark conversations about faith in your family as it did in mine.
Even if you haven’t seen Encanto, you’ve probably heard the soundtrack. The recent Disney musical tells the story of a big Colombian family with magical abilities. And several songs from the soundtrack have topped the charts since its release.
My kids are big fans of Encanto, and I like finding ways to use stories they love to share moral lessons and religious truths. I did the same with Moana a few years ago.
After all, all good stories reflect, in some way, the greatest story ever told. So we can always find a connection to our faith.
First, a disclaimer: It’s not a perfect movie. It had a lot of glaring plot holes that bugged me (and led my kids to ask me a lot of questions I couldn’t answer). As one writer wisely put it, “writers are learning that, if you lean heavily enough on themes of working through family trauma, people will not notice giant gaping plot holes.”
I also took issue with a few lines from the movie, such as when one character sings, “I’m so sick of pretty. I want something true.” My five-year-old daughter asked me, “Mom, why is she sick of pretty? I like pretty.” “Me too,” I said. The line sets up a false dichotomy between beauty and truth, which is just total nonsense.
But these are minor quibbles. Overall, we really enjoyed the movie. Here are a few reasons I like Encanto and what parts of it I talked about with my kids. (Spoilers ahead.)
1The theme of self-sacrifice
The patriarch of the family, Abuelo Pedro, sacrifices himself for the sake of his family. He literally lays down his life as an act of love, which echoes Christ’s sacrifice.
I’ve got to hand it to my kids for pointing out this one. My second grader has been learning all about Jesus’ sacrifice in preparation for his First Holy Communion. After watching Encanto, he said to me, “The grandpa made me think about Jesus.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?” I asked. “He died to save his family, just like Jesus died to save us.” I agreed with him and thought, “Thanks, buddy, for inspiring my next article!”
2The communion of saints
As Catholics, we believe that those who have died are still present. We can communicate with them through God, and through God they can act in our lives. We call this the communion of saints, and it’s why we ask the saints to pray for us.
This truth seems to be reflected in Encanto through the role of Abuelo. It is only after he dies that he is able to protect his family through giving them their magical abilities.
His character put me in mind of something St. Therese of Lisieux said: “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.” Abuelo does good on earth from heaven.
On top of that, several characters in the movie talk to Abuelo after he dies, even asking for his guidance. These scenes echo the way that we often ask the saints in heaven for their guidance and prayers.
3The importance of serving others
One of the things I liked most about this movie is that the family does not use their magical gifts to gain power or hoard wealth. Instead, they use their gifts to serve and help their community.
In the same way, we as Christians are called to be “men and women for others.” We are called to use our God-given gifts and talents to serve and help others, just like the Familia Madrigal does.
4The joy of a big family
It is so refreshing to see a big family positively portrayed on screen. The family is not perfect (in fact, Abuela’s tendency to be controlling causes the movie’s conflict), but they clearly enjoy and love each other, and it’s delightful to see.
One of my favorite parts of the movie is the relationship between the main character, Mirabel, and her much younger cousin, Antonio. Despite their big difference in age, they have a very warm and affectionate relationship. It’s a beautiful example of the joy of a “wide” family too.
5It’s not scary!
Okay, this is huge; I know all you parents of sensitive kiddos will hear me on this one!
Like many young children, my kids are easily scared. They refuse to watch Frozen or Finding Nemo or most of the classic kids’ movies because they find them too scary and upsetting.
For years, I’ve been bemoaning to anyone who would listen that most kids’ movies are way too scary. It really bothers me. “Why can’t moviemakers just once make a movie with no scary bad guys?” I would complain.
Well, they finally did. Thank goodness. And it’s called Encanto.
There is no villain in the movie, unless you count the nebulous “bad guys” who killed Abuelo, but this scene is presented as a flashback from long ago and is not graphic, so my kids didn’t find it upsetting. The character who seems to be a villain at first actually turns out to be harmless and kind.
So the movie isn’t scary, even for very young kids. Seriously, this is such a relief. It’s something I’ve wanted in a movie for a long time. The whole family can watch it, for real. And that’s such a pleasant and refreshing change!
I hope you get a chance to watch Encanto and enjoy its catchy, delightful soundtrack. Maybe it will spark some conversations about faith in your family, just as it did in mine.