Disney + subscribers get a Christmas present this year in Charm, Mouse House’s new animated musical about a Colombian family with magical powers. Notably, the film’s original songs were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, adding to its ubiquity here in 2021, the year he directed. tic … tic … ¡BOOM!, produced In the heights and voice acted, produced and wrote songs for Vivo. Anyone experiencing LMM fatigue, who will likely undergo further testing considering the high likelihood of receiving Oscar nominations, will be glad to hear that their presence at Charm it doesn’t immediately prevail, because the movie stands out on its own as a perfectly delicious fantasy for the whole family.
CHARM: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The essence: DATE LINE: COLOMBIA. A place out of time: We are always looking for cell phones to get a specific idea of a movie set, right ?, and there are none here, not even a radio or, unless I’m wrong, an electric light. . So this is kind of a fairy tale: I got it. It is about the Madrigal family, led by Abuela (voice of María Cecilia Botero), widow, mother of triplets, founder of a paradise town for her relatives and fellow refugees, guardian of a flame in a magic candle that endows her children and grandchildren of superhuman “gifts” and keeps the city safe. She is an amazing woman, is what I mean.
But Grandma is not perfect, who is? – and we’ll get to that in a minute. We meet his granddaughter Maribel (Stephanie Beatriz), who is the only Madrigal without magical powers. She gives us a Madrigal who is-who through a happy song: her mother Julieta (Angie Cepeda) can heal ailments with her cooking, sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow) is super strong, sister Isabela (Diane Guerrero) can do flowers grow, Aunt Pepa (Carolina Gaitán) moods influence the weather, little cousin Antonio (Ravi-Cabot Conyers) can talk to animals, and there are others, which I will summarize simply by saying, “etc.” One might think that Mirabel’s gift is the ability to summon worms through imminently catchy expository musical numbers, but apparently one would be wrong. She is Madrigal’s misfit as the script dictates, and one will just have to deal with it.
However, she is not Madrigal’s only misfit. No one can talk about his uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), who has been banished from the magical and sensitive family home, nicknamed Casita. Maribel discovers this buried family secret while investigating a possible threat to Madrigal’s magic, manifested through cracks in the Casita’s walls that apparently only she can see. It prompts a kind of search for Maribel, who sniffs behind the walls of the house and finds herself in a Indiana Jones lays down, and sings a few more songs as he rebuilds the plot. Grandmother, however, will not accept any of this; He prefers to cover up family problems and pretend they don’t exist, believing that he will preserve the candle flame. But as anyone who’s gotten at least a C in Psych 101 knows, suppressing unpleasant truths never plays. So maybe Maribel has found her purpose: to destroy tradition in the name of enlightened progress, it seems.
Which movies will it remind you of ?: In the pantheon of Disney animated musicals of the last decade: Moana > Frozen > Charm > Frozen II, which does not imply that any of them are lousy in the least. (And this is where I remind you, almost on purpose, that The princess and the frog is criminally undervalued and must be seen / re-watched).
Performance worth watching: As Maribel’s voice, Beatriz finds the perfect combination of substance and upbeat optimism.
Diálogo memorable: “Perhaps your gift is to deny it.” – a random child in the Mirabel zings village
Sex and skin: None.
Our Take: Charm it’s instantly beautiful to look at – lots and lots of color, inspired character design, and deep, rich backgrounds. La Casita, with its vibrant tiles and stairs that transform into slides, is charming; a sequence in which little Antonio realizes his gift and rides through the jungle on the back of a jaguar is an absolute joy; another that seeks to resolve the rivalry between Mirabel and her “perfect” sister Isabela is as emotionally moving as it is visually charming. This is not unexpected, it is just Disney’s animation studio that spares no expense and puts it par excellence.
Maribel is a typical brave teenage protagonist who does her best to avoid her insecurities. It is easy to love and empathize with her. She sings a song that refers to her “unspoken invisible pain,” but we never see her offspring like Elsa; she is the main source of CharmIt’s a bright and lively tone that dominates despite some relatively complex themes. Interestingly, Maribel is not a princess herself and does not face a villain. The only bad thing here is an abstraction, an old-fashioned notion that showing strength, even if it’s an illusion, can protect a family or a people. It’s a riff of generational discord, with Maribel challenging Abuela’s control, stemming from the past trauma of the Madrigal matriarch and a deep-seated fear of showing vulnerability.
Sounds heavy, right? It really isn’t. The movie is pretty sneaky in the way it incorporates his ideas into its vivid aesthetic, brimming with light comedy, heaps of eye candy, and upbeat, catchy songs. (My initial inclination to interpret the story as a comment on the need to dismantle the British monarchy turned out to be a bit of a stretch.) The movie gets a bit murky thematically as it insists on a bright and happy ending, but the implication is that the Madrigal family needed to be taken down in order to move on, and who better to do that than Black Sheep? Charm It doesn’t end with the action-packed chaos of so many other movies of its kind, because it’s more about reconstruction than destruction. And rebuilding is always about emphasizing hope for the future rather than longing for the past.
Our calling: STREAM IT. Charm he’s downright nice, witty and smart, robust in his multi-generational appeal.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.