ENCANTO/THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES – Review by Martha K Baker

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Animation so often suggests a movie for “the children,” but two entries require a bit of consideration. Both Encanto and The Mitchells vs. the Machine follow the pattern established by “Sesame Street,” that is, something for almost everyone. Each film appeals to children, although not wee ones, as well as to grown-ups.

They are both loud and colorful. They both have messages about family, and they both have music.

The Mitchells vs. the Machine, directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, has been available on Netflix since March, but it’s getting a push now in awards’ season. The Mitchells comprise a dad (Danny McBride), with appropriate bod; a mom (Maya Rudolph), who’s sweet as apple pie; a son besotted by dinosaurs; and a daughter.

What a daughter. Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) wants to quit this family to join “her people” at film school. Dad has different ideas: how about a road trip? En route, the Mitchells encounter a robot apocalypse. Look for smart phones, Roombas, and Furbys (totally evil) to kill the humans, but not, you’ll be glad to know, on the Mitchells’ watch.

The other fierce family in the Colombia of Animationland is the Madrigals. They are magical after surviving a tragedy a few generations ago. All except for Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz). The family is led by the matriarchal abuela (voiced by María Cecilia Botero), and each member has a talent. Mami can heal wounds, one sister hefts heavy loads, and another makes the flowers bloom.

But Mirabel sees that her magic casita is cracking and so is her family. She has to wonder if the estranged uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo) is involved.

Directed by Jared Bush and Bryan Howard, Encanto sends all the right messages and does so with color and song. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song, “Columbia, Mi Encanto,” rises above a few that lack luster.

Both Encanto and The Mitchells offer frenetic pacing, fabulous color, and vivid imagination, but both works require caution from grown-ups who think animation is fair game for every little one. Remember, even Bambi was traumatic.

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Martha K. Baker (Archived Contributor)

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.