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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Encanto’ on Disney+, a Typically Enchanting Animated Mouse House Musical




Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Encanto’ on Disney+, a Typically Enchanting Animated Mouse House Musical

Disney+ subscribers get a Christmas gift this year in Encanto, the Mouse House’s new animated musical about a Colombian family with magical powers. Notably, the film’s original songs were penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda, further adding to his ubiquity here in 2021, a year in which he directed tick… tick… BOOM!, produced In the Heights and voice acted in, produced and wrote songs for Vivo. Anyone experiencing LMM fatigue – likely to be further tested considering the high probability of his receiving Oscar nominations – will be happy to know that his presence in Encanto isn’t immediately prevalent, because the film stands on its own as a perfectly delightful fantasy for the whole family.


The Gist: DATELINE: COLOMBIA. A place out of time – we’re always looking for cell phones to get a specific idea of a movie’s setting, aren’t we, and there are none here, nor even a radio or, unless I’m mistaken, an electric light. So this is a kind of fairy tale then: Got it. It’s about the Madrigal family, led by Abuela (voice of Maria Cecilia Botero), widow, mother of triplets, founder of a village paradise for her kin and fellow refugees, keeper of a flame on a magical candle that endows her children and grandchildren with superhuman “gifts” and keeps the town safe. She’s one hell of a woman, is what I’m getting at.

But Abuela isn’t perfect – who is? – and we’ll get to that in a minute. We meet her granddaughter Maribel (Stephanie Beatriz), who’s the only Madrigal without magical powers. She gives us a Madrigal who’s-who via an upbeat song: Her mother Julieta (Angie Cepeda) can cure ailments with her cooking, sister Luisa (Jessica Darrow) is super strong, sister Isabela (Diane Guerrero) can make flowers grow, aunt Pepa’s (Carolina Gaitan) moods influence the weather, little cousin Antonio (Ravi-Cabot Conyers) can talk to animals, and there are others, which I’ll sum up by simply saying, “etc.” One might think Mirabel’s gift is the ability to summon earworms via imminently catchy expositional musical numbers, but one apparently would be wrong. She is the Madrigal misfit as the screenplay dictates, and one will just have to deal with it.

However, she isn’t the only Madrigal misfit. Nobody’s allowed to talk about her uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), who’s been banished from the family’s magical, sentient house, dubbed Casita. Maribel discovers this buried family secret while investigating a potential threat to the Madrigal magic, manifesting via cracks in the Casita walls that apparently only she can see. It prompts a little quest of sorts for Maribel, who sniffs around behind the walls of the house and finds herself on an Indiana Jones set, and sings some more ditties as she pieces together the plot. Abuela, however, will have none of this; she’d rather cover up the family’s problems and pretend they don’t exist, believing it’ll preserve the candle flame. But as anybody who got at least a C in Psych 101 knows, suppressing ugly truths never works. So maybe Maribel has found her purpose: Shredding tradition in the name of enlightened progress, it seems.

ENCANTO, Mirabel Madrigal
Photo: ©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: In the pantheon of animated Disney musicals from the past decade: Moana > Frozen > Encanto > Frozen II, which isn’t to imply that any of them are lousy in the least. (And this is where I remind you, almost apropos of nothing, that The Princess and the Frog is criminally underrated and you need to watch/rewatch it.)

Performance Worth Watching: As the voice of Maribel, Beatriz finds the perfect blend of substance and hopeful buoyancy.

Memorable Dialogue: “Maybe your gift is being in denial.” – a random kid in the village zings Mirabel

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: Encanto is immediately gorgeous to the eye: Gobs and gobs of color, inspired character design and deep, rich backgrounds. The Casita, with it’s chattering floor tiles and stairs that transform into slides, is enchanting; 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 touching as it is visually lovely. This isn’t unexpected, it’s just Disney’s animation studio sparing no expense and putting for par, par excellence.

Maribel is a somewhat typical plucky teen protagonist who does her best to stave off her insecurities. She’s easy to love and empathize with. She sings a song referencing her “unspoken invisible pain,” but we never see her brood like Elsa; she’s the primary source of Encanto’s bright, uptempo tone, which dominates despite some relatively complex subject matter. Refreshingly, Maribel isn’t a princess per se, and she doesn’t face a villain. The only bad guy here is an abstraction – an outmoded notion that showing strength, even if it’s an illusion, can protect a family or a people. It’s a riff on generational discord, with Maribel challenging Abuela’s control, stemming from the Madrigal matriarch’s past trauma and a deep-seated fear of showing vulnerability.

Sounds heavy, doesn’t it? It’s really not. The movie’s pretty sneaky in the way it incorporates its ideas into its vivid aesthetic, brimming with light comedy, scads of eye candy and cheery, medium-catchy songs. (My initial inclination to interpret the story as a commentary on the need to dismantle the British monarchy turned out to be a bit of a stretch.) The film gets a little thematically muddy as it insists upon a shiny-happy ending, but the implication is, the Madrigal family needed to be torn down in order to move forward – and who better to do that than the black sheep? Encanto doesn’t conclude with the action-heavy chaos of so many other films of its ilk, because it’s more about rebuilding than destruction. And the rebuild is always about emphasizing hope for the future instead of a longing for the past.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Encanto is thoroughly enjoyable, witty and intelligent, robust in its multigenerational appeal.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at

Stream Encanto on Disney+


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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