Recent films like Frozen and Zootopia have served as reminders that when it comes to animation and powerful storytelling no one does it like Disney. With the addition of Moana, they prove it once more!
Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is the young daughter of a Polynesian chief who has a deep love for her people and the ocean. Though she is forbidden to travel beyond her beautiful home island, she has a strong desire to explore and voyage like her ancestors. When a terrible curse is inflicted upon her island Moana sets out to find the one responsible: elusive demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson).
The showing that I went to was unsurprisingly filled with families and young children. What did surprise me however, was how much adults and kids alike seemed to enjoy it. The audience’s reaction was ridiculously positive; this is a film that all ages will enjoy.
Moana explores several weighty issues like the dangers in people-pleasing and the importance of doing the right thing even when it is difficult. These are important messages that hopefully resonate with young viewers. The movie centers quite a bit on the relationship between titular character Moana and Maui- a self-absorbed demi-god who proves an unlikely partner in Moana’s journey.
Voiced by teenager Auli’i Cravalho, Moana is a wonderful character; she is imaginative, creative, strong-willed and someone worth admiring. I found her to also be very self-aware. There were moments when she was fearful and even when she considered giving up, but she always found the strength to keep going.
Cravalho has a beautiful singing voice that sounds strong and mature, making it easy to forget that she was just 14 when she began the voice work for this character. Even Dwayne Johnson does some singing here and it was a pleasant surprise to see him as more than capable in a role like this.
All of the musical numbers are fun, upbeat and have meaningful lyrics thanks to a handful of people including legend-in-the-making Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame). Coupled with that is the animation which is truly stunning. It is extremely gratifying to see just how far technology and visual effects have come.
Most importantly I liked how Moana explored a beautiful culture that very little is really known about. I could truly appreciate how respectful the movie was of Polynesian culture and heritage. For perhaps the first time, many of us will see culturally significant rituals, music and stories which I found to be really special.
There aren’t a lot of characters to keep up with which is a plus if ensemble casts make you dizzy! Also it is worth noting that there is no central villain in this story which I found interesting. Perhaps the greatest villain or enemy is fear itself, which can be true for real life just as much as an animated children’s movie.
Moana is written and directed by Disney legends John Musker and Ron Clements (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Princess & the Frog to name a few!!). It also features the talented voices of Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk.
Moana features a talented cast, tells a heartfelt story, and includes great music. It’s a hit-go see it!