WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
You may already know that I swore off of reviewing kids movies months ago but here I am reviewing Moana, the newest Disney potential cash cow. If you are asking why I caved for this movie, two reasons. First, my options for movies this week are limited, and secondly, The Rock is in it. Disney is currently in the process of throwing the kitchen sink at us as they continue with their plan of world domination. It’s not enough for them to own Marvel, Star Wars, ESPN, and the right to your first born child but they are also in the process taking any property new or old and slapping a 150 million dollar budget on it. Here, however, they are throwing caution to the wind with a new property based on the Polynesian Islands. With an intriguing idea and the Pimp hand of the mouse in its corner, Moana is destined to be the new smash hit of the year…but no cares about all that, The Rock is in the movie so let’s get started.
The story of Moana begins with the tale about an ancient demigod named Maui, who stole Te Fiti’s heart, a small jade stone that provides life to all the Islands. Many years later a little girl named Moana who is the future Chief in the Island of Montunui, discovers that she has been chosen by the ocean to find Maui and return Te Fiti’s heart before the curse starves her people and kills the Island. Moana is told as a coming of age story about a brave young girl who starts out helping a baby sea turtle make it to the ocean into becoming a fierce descendant of Voguers who must travel where her people are forbidden to go to save her island. Moana is voiced by 16-year-old newcomer Auli’i Cravalho. Cravalho is stellar in his first major role carrying the majority of the voice work as well as singing the music for the film.
Now I’m not a huge fan of Disney original music, which sounds weird considering this is a musical, but for me, the songs were hit or miss. If you comparing this film to Frozen, there won’t be any songs you have to hear your kids sing for 3 years past its expiration date. With that said, the singer excels given the monumental task asked of her for this project. Cravalho is the emotional avatar for not only the story but the songs performed in the feel are very emotional and really inspiring for her character. The animation reminded like a lot of Lilo & Stitch except this film had the technical ability to present a much better product visually than they had in 2002. The two best displays of visuals in the film are a battle scene pulled straight out of Mad Max Fury Road and the nighttime scenes get very creative with their illuminating color schemes
I haven’t even mentioned the Great One yet (That’s Dwayne Johnson for you non-wrestling fans). The Rock plays Maui, a demigod who has been around for thousands of years. He wields a hook that was crafted by the Gods which allows him to shapeshift into any animal he chooses. While Maui views himself as a hero to the people, his selfishness is what caused the peril in the first place as he stole the Fiti heart and curse the island. Moana must team up with Maui to return the heart and defeat the lava monster Te Ka if she is to save her people. The Rock is serviceable in his role but really he isn’t the star here despite having the most memorable song in the film. His character is a cocky arrogant goof but he is funny enough for you kids to enjoy and really there isn’t much to dislike outside a few nitpick issues. As a big fan of Johnson (Shut Up), I wanted a little more from him outta this role but understandably I’m not the target audience for this and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
For my money, Moana is the best Disney animated film of the year. Over five years of great work and research went into the details to represent the Polynesian people and their culture. These days, that kind of effort in films have to be rewarded. There are a few elements that we have already seen in Disney movies in the past but Moana is surely not your typical Disney Princess film. Moana is just a stunning movie to watch and a fun film for the family.
OFFICIAL RATING: ****
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