Sunday, December 11, 2016

Moana

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Auli'i Cravalho, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison
Director: Ron Clements and Don Hall
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Rating: PG


"Moana" is Disney's latest sensation, and with good reason. The animation is gorgeous - I felt like I was at sea the entire time - the music is catchy, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda's lending hand, and our protagonist is a strong Polynesian girl - both strong-willed AND she's pretty ripped. (The girl has incredible upper body strength!) While my favorite animated film of the year was "Kubo and the Two Strings", "Moana" is sure to delight audiences of all ages, and it's a film I would enjoy watching again and again. Any Disney fan will love it.

The film's portrayal of Polynesian culture is genuine and sincere. I have no doubts that the writers, animators and producers took careful thought with each element of this movie. We meet Moana as a toddler, already enchanted by the sea and the unknown that lies on the other side of it. As a young girl, her father Chief Tui encourages her to stay put on the island and learn how to be the leader she inevitably becomes; meanwhile her Gramma Tala feeds her adventuresome side and tells her the legend of Maui, an ancient demigod who accidentally set a curse among their people. The curse can only be removed by the one "chosen" by the sea. Naturally, Moana's curiosity is heightened.

In a soaring number ("How Far I'll Go"), Moana sets across the sea in search of Maui, alongside the help of Hei Hei, an adorably idiotic bird (but sadly not Pua the precious pig!) Maui is voiced by Dwayne Johnson, and while I'm not a huge fan of The Rock, his comedic timing and vocal skills deliver. The two are in for a wild ride, fighting off coconut pirates, battling a fire giant named Te Ka, and barely escaping the claws of a giant crab named Tamatoa. Needless to say, their journey is a lot of fun.

I could have used several more songs from Miranda, but the ones we have are catchy, melodic and will certainly stay in your head. This is a beautiful film and Moana is an inspiring protagonist, though my screening partner commented on the fact that it has been a while since Disney produced a "prince" movie. We named a few: Tarzan, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but as far as Disney movies go, princesses are king.


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