Movie Review: ‘Moana’
Let’s face it. Disney is pretty much solely responsible for keeping the genre of “musical” alive in the age of modern cinema. With the exception of only two of their over 50 animated movies theatrically released, they have all been full of memorable songs and academy award winning tunes. Moana is no different, and once again Disney delivers something that is both visually stunning and a joy for the ears.
The film tells the story of Moana (voiced by Auli’l Cravalho), a young girl destined to become the chief of her small village on a tropical island. But she has a compulsive curiosity and a desire to travel beyond the reef (which her Father, the current chief, forbids) that surrounds their island home. But when calamity strikes due to the actions of Maui, a mischievous demigod (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), Moana is forced to head out on a treacherous adventure to save her people.
This movie is straight up breathtaking. The scope of the landscapes, the depth of characters and the intensity of the villains is outstanding. The same team who brought the world Frozen is responsible for this entry into the Disney cannon and none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) is part of the song writing team. The story is sweeping and deals with issues of familial responsibility as well as being brave enough to head into the unknown when it comes time for action.
There is also a real sense of respect for Polynesian culture from the filmmakers. From the tattoos to the way of life, they made sure that the culture was represented without being condescending or stereotypically insulting. That continues with the mythology, which while made up for the movie, is authentic to the world of Moana. And the monsters are incredible, ranging from the cutely devious (the coconut pirates are a particular highlight) to the deviously glamorous (Jemaine Clement in a wicked turn as a sparkle obsessed crab) to the downright terrifying lava monster. And Maui is wonderful as the hero/fool to Moana’s kick-ass heroine.
The only downside to the film is its tendency to be repetetive at times, as well as its more than liberal borrowing from the original Star Wars movie in terms of plot devices and characters. But that is a minor grievance. Moana is a wonderful film that will delight all moviegoers.
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