The Madrigal clan are a little unusual. The burly Luisa (voiced by Jessica Darrow) possesses superhuman strength, Isabela (Diane Guerrero) has the ability to make flowers burst into bloom, Pepa (Carolina Gaitán) can control the weather with her mood. It’s only bespectacled Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) who hasn’t been blessed with magic. An outsider in her own family, she fits right into a lineage of recent Disney animation heroines, including Moana and Frozen’s Elsa. When the Madrigals’ prized enchanted candle begins to dim (and with it, everyone’s powers), cracks appear in the foundation of the family casa. It’s Mirabel who must figure out how to keep the flame alight.
Set among the mountains of Colombia, this sparky musical covers plenty of well-trodden terrain, including sibling rivalry and the crushing weight of family expectations. What’s interesting and unexpected is the film’s subtle acknowledgement of culturally specific generational trauma and displacement. “We can’t lose our home,” repeats matriarch Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero), who recounts being forced from her house by “unknown forces” once before. The film also boasts a soundtrack of earworms written by Lin-Manuel Miranda; the slinky, salsa-influenced We Don’t Talk About Bruno rattled around in my head for days.