STARRING: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temura Morrison, Christopher Jackson, Nicole Scherzinger, Jemaine Clement and Alan Tudyk
Moana is the latest film from Disney with Ron Clements and John Musker on directing duties, with the do being behind films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet and The Princess and The Frog. That’s quite a list and of course with them working on this film, it brings a certain level of expectation along with it.
From it’s opening into the island of Motunui, Moana is beautifully designed and looks absolutely gorgeous visually when watching this film at a 3D screening. As a character, particularly a female lead in a Disney film, it’s refreshing for a change to follow one that didn’t grow up an orphan and also has no love interest sub-plot that exists (I did enjoy the one quip from Maui when Moana insists she’s not a Princess, saying ‘If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess’.). She’s infectiously charming, headstrong and her journey of defying her father’s expectations and wishes and adventuring out to explore the unknown is one that has you captivated quickly to root for Moana as she sets out to save her people. Auli’i Cravalho is great in the lead role and shares terrific chemisty/energy with fellow co-star Dwayne Johnson as demigod Maui, who is referred to in a mythical story surrounding goddess Te Fiti and lava monster Te Kā. The two compliment each others journeys well as they venture along. I did enjoy that there’s a little mini-Maui tattoo on his body that acts as his conscience throughout the film. Out of the supporting characters, it’s Gramma Tala aka ‘the village crazy lady’ that is remembered the most as she provides the advice and lessons to Moana that stamps her importance in the story. The film will have some memorable moments, kids will probably enjoy brainless rooster Hei Hei’s crazy/stupid/dumb but funny moments and then there’s the Kakamora aka a group of pirate coconuts…say no more. There’s quite a few musical numbers that have now been imprinted into my brain a few hours after the screening, with Moana’s anthem ‘How Far I’ll Go’ (which is already unfairly being expected to become Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ levels of BIG), ‘I Am Moana’, Maui’s song ‘You’re Welcome’ and ‘We Know The Way’. Basically hats off to Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina for the songs and scores.
While there was many musical numbers I enjoyed, there was one that stuck out like a sore thumb to me and that was Jemaine Clement’s number ‘Shiny’. That didn’t work for me at all. In terms of plot it pretty much follows the basic Disney blueprint so it will all feel similar in terms of how the story plays out. The film is very much focused on Moana and Maui that there’s no time for other human characters to be given much screentime once Moana sails away from her home. While under two hours long, the film does feel like it lags around the half hour mark when a rather large crab gets involved.
It may not be my favourite Disney animated offering this year (hello Zootropolis), but Moana is definitely one of the better offerings in recent years. With a strong female lead character, a charismatic co-lead for a demigod and gorgeous animation, Moana is a beautiful and fun film with terrific score from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina. 8/10