A new Disney smash hit without a princess
Moana is Disney's 2nd major animation production of 2016, the other being Zootopia. It is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and introduces Auli'i Cavalhro as Moana, as well as featuring voice work from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Moana is the daughter of Chief Tui on the Hawaii-nesque island of Monotui. Moana yearns to travel on the ocean waters, but her father refuses to let her sail, claiming no one is allowed to go beyond the island reef. Eventually, Moana discovers that she has been chosen to go on a quest to find the demigod Maui, and return the lost heart of the island goddess, Te Fiti, who is capable of creating life and can also save Moana's island home that is dying.
Two things should be clear. One, Moana is no princess. She states this herself in the film, as she more longs to be an ocean adventurer instead of a stay-at-home leader of her people. Two, Moana is not your traditional Disney musical love tale. The musical part is still there, but nowhere does the film hint at a romance or love tale.
Moana's attitude as an independent, I-can-take-care-of-myself kind of girl is a message that many young female girls can truly resonate with. We live in an age where sex is a product to sell, which conveys a cruel, derogatory message that women are sexual objects and men are free to dominate them as they please. While Moana should not discourage women from ever getting married or pursuing any form of romance, it should given them the firepower to feel more confident in themselves and aspire to chase after their dreams with no hesitation.
- The animation. The ocean water is gorgeous and looks astonishingly realistic. Lush green mountains and stony hillsides are dazzling to the eyes. Human and animal characters are expertly crafted with high attention to detail.
- The lack of a love story. The formulaic approach that Disney managed to succeed with for years was something that went along these lines; a princess becomes fed up with her boring, trite lifestyle and eventually meets a usually unsung male counterpart with whom she sometimes instantly falls in love with. The two defeat a nasty evil-doer, share a kiss, and live happily ever after. It's the usual sweet candy, but Moana does not even attempt to convince us that its titular character is another Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Moana's male cohort is the beefy, all-powerful demigod Maui, who is voiced by muscle-man Dwayne Johnson. Moana always reminds Maui that she is in charge, and there is no motif or wordless exchange to make you even ponder the thought that the two are falling in love. This is rare grounds for Disney, and it's a fresh take that is a delight to see.
- It's difficult for me to find anything to truly bite at in the film. Perhaps if anything, Moana doesn't provide the most clever humor in the world. Several of the jokes and comedic moments rely on toilet humor and the idiocy of Heihei, Moana's not-so-smart pet rooster. I failed to laugh out loud at any of the humor, but I still found myself seriously snickering a handful of times. I was not expecting a surplus of humor, and there isn't one. Why should there be?
Moana is a delightful and fantastically animated Disney adventure, featuring some charming music and a memorable new female lead in Moana. Pixar might start sweating a little if Disney keeps up this recent hot streak.
Recommend? Yes! Whether by yourself or with the family, you won't regret it!
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