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Flicks With Nicki – ‘Encanto’

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Flicks With Nicki – ‘Encanto’

Nicki Salcedo. Photo by Fox Gradin.

I’ve seen “Encanto” three times. Three is the magic number. Three generations. Triplet babies. Three sisters. “Encanto” is alive with the power of three, the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the blessing of family. We all know that families are difficult. They can be magical, misguided, and maddening.

I took great interest in Disney’s “Encanto” since it follows Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), the youngest of three sisters in the Madrigal family. I grew up with the Ingalls, Bradys, and Huxtables. As one of three sisters, I’ve watched variations of Mary, Laura, and Carrie. Marcia, Jan, and Cindy. Denise, Vanessa, and Rudy. Usually, the first or second sister gets the attention. The youngest sibling is the annoying one. The weird one. The one with all the quirks. I’m the youngest. Mirabel is me. And my family is like the Madrigals.

Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) is a natural leader, long before becoming an Abuela. A tragedy means she must raise her three children alone, but a miracle happens. In this family, the magic is real.

Abuela has two gifts. The first gift is perseverance. We see this as a candle that never dies. The second gift is safety. The house, Casita Madrigal, is a character in that Disney way. Clocks walk. Shutters wave. Tiles dance. The home is alive, and the gifts continue.

Abuela’s triplets are Julieta (Angie Cepeda), Pepa (Carolina Gaitán), and Bruno (John Leguizamo).

Julieta cures people with her food. She is the healer.

Pepa’s feelings reflect in the weather. Her emotions are in the sky.

Bruno sees the future, but we don’t talk about Bruno and why he disappeared on the night of Mirabel’s gift ceremony. He’s the visionary.

The gifts flow into the second generation of siblings and cousins.

Luisa (Jessica Darrow) is powerful and dependable. She is strength.

Isabela (Diane Guerrero) makes flowers bloom and is beautiful. Isa is perfection.

Cousin Delores can hear from far away. Camilo is a shapeshifter. He can become anyone he sees. Antonio understands animals. Listening. Change. Communication.

Mirabel is the only one without a gift. She loves her family. She wants to make them proud, but Abuela just wants her to stay out of the way. The gifts are to help the people in the community, and that puts pressure on everyone in the family. When Mirabel realizes the magic is fading, she must save the magic without having any of her own.

“Encanto” means a place of wonder. Mirabel wonders where her place is. She isn’t errant or rebellious. She isn’t strong or perfect like her two sisters. She suffers from normalcy. Her fatal flaw is that she is a regular person. That would be bad enough, but the people in her family and around town constantly remind Mirabel that she is different and lesser. What she lacks in magic, she makes up for in determination. This leads her to look at her family through new eyes.

We should talk about Bruno. He has power to see the future. Then he’s blamed for the visions that he sees. Isn’t it funny? We want to know the future, but not the truth.

We don’t talk enough about Pepa. Often shown with a cloud over her head, Pepa being upset means rain. She takes a breath and says, “Clear skies!” She must force her happiness for the sake of the family and community. Each gift is also a burden.

I started watching “Encanto” thinking I was Mirabel, but it turns out that I’m not.

My kids told me, “Mom, you’re Julieta!”

I’ve always wanted to be a curandera, a healer. I make potions and concoctions and hot teas with cayenne pepper and honey. I love helping people. But at the same time, how could my family not see that I’m also Pepa and Bruno? The one controlling the weather with my emotions. The one looking to the future.

The enchantment of “Encanto” is seeing reflections of ourselves. How often do we disappoint our ancestors? When is it necessary for us to make our own way? Why is it so easy to think everyone problem free and perfect? We forget that our burdens look different. We each carry a load.

“Encanto” is the 60th animated feature from Disney. It landed at just the right time for me. I’ve been looking at my family in a new way. I have Luisa and Isabella in my life. Tio Felix is there, too. I see Bruno, Mirabel, and Delores. We don’t talk enough about Delores. For now, I get to be a little of every Madrigal. Both with and without the magic. But in “Encanto” there’s magic enough to go around. Grade A+

Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.

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