Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny and adventure filled movie
Cons: A few nitpicks, but nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Journey to islands
Fun filled adventure story
“If You Wear a Dress and Have an Animal Sidekick, You’re a Princess.”
Despite the good things I’d been hearing about Moana, I missed it in the theater. However, I still pre-ordered it, so I was able to watch it over the weekend on Blu-Ray. I can certainly understand the buzz because this is a fun movie.
The story takes us to the South Pacific where we meet Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho). She is the chief’s daughter and as such destined to become the next chief. Her tribe thrives on the coconut trees that grow on their island and the fish they can gather from the nearby water. They have but one rule – don’t sail beyond the reef that surrounds their island.
Yet Moana longs to go exploring. And her grandmother (Rachel House) believes that the ocean has chosen Moana for a mission to restore something that was stolen years ago by the demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Will Moana venture beyond the reef?
The movie takes a bit of time to get going. Naturally, this is partially set up since we need know the background to Moana’s adventure. But since we know that Moana is going to head out to sea, it ultimately seems a bit slow. However, once the adventure picks up, the movie really becomes fun. There are several great actions scenes that will definitely keep your attention.
What I wasn’t expecting was the humor. I was laughing the entire way through. Whether it’s at dialogue, character reactions to things, or Heihei, Moana’s dimwitted pet rooster (yes, dimwitted even for a chicken), there is plenty to make you smile.
Since I know so little about Polynesian culture, I found that part interesting as well. Oh, I know it’s Disney, so it’s hardly something to take as a reliable source, but it added a nice touch to the film. Much of this does come early in the film, which adds to that set up and slow down I mentioned earlier.
The animation is wonderful, as expected. Water plays a huge part in the film, and there are a couple of shots that look absolutely amazing. The rest of the animation might not blow you away, but it is completely enjoyable.
The songs are a bit of a mixed bag. “How Far I’ll Go,” the song Moana sings, is a souring ballad that fits well in the Disney cannon. They try to go for comedy with another couple of songs, “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny.” They won’t work quite as well as they could. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t that much fun out of context.
On the other hand, the voice cast is uniformly great. The supporting characters are fun, although this movie really belongs to Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson. They spend much of the film as the only two characters, and they pull it off admirably.
That’s not necessarily an easy job as Maui is more of an anti-hero than a true hero or even a reluctant hero. Moana is constantly have to use any means necessary to convince him to do the right thing. It creates a bit of a different dynamic for the film, which I ultimately enjoyed.
This is also the rare Disney animated film that doesn’t feature romance of some kind. There isn’t even a hint of it. I found that refreshing, especially since I wouldn’t have wanted to see it between Moana and Maui at all.
There are definitely some scary moments in this film that will upset the easily frightened. Most kids should be able to take it in stride, but if your child is easily frightened, you’ll want to preview it first.
Despite some nitpicks here and there, this is a fun film that will please fans of Disney animation. If you haven’t seen Moana yet, fix that today.