Moana – 4 out of 5
I didn’t get a chance to see Moana in the theaters because I’m pretty selective on what I will spend my money on when I go to the theater. However, I really wanted to check this one out because I’m a fan of The Rock and would even go as far as to say I have a man-crush on him. The dude is funny, talented and brings a lot of charm to his roles. What’s not to like? So, anyway, when Moana arrived on DVD and Blu-Ray, I blind bought a copy and took a risk. Was the gamble worth it? Yes, it was!
|It won't be long before artists on the internet are re-imagining Moana as other|
things. They love to do that with the Disney Princesses.
(Actually, they probably already have.)
|Nice to see the water alien from The Abyss still|
A long time ago near the Polynesian islands, a demi-god by the name of Maui (Dwayne Johnson) stole a mystic gem that was the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti and it contained the power to create life. This thievery brought darkness to the world and Maui ended up being attacked by the lava demon Te Kā, causing him to lose the gem and his magical fish hook (one that granted him shapeshifting powers). Generations later on the island of Motunui, Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) is grooming his daughter; Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), to one day take his place and lead the tribe. However, trouble falls over the island as crops start to die and the fish begin to disappear. At the behest of her grandma (Rachel House), Moana decides to travel beyond their island (against her father’s wishes, of course) and find Maui and make him return the heart to the goddess Te Fiti.
|"IF YOU SMELLLLLL-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA...what the Maui...|
There’s no denying that Disney brings a certain magic with their films and it is seen in Moana all over the place. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise since the directors; John Musker and Ron Clements, both directed the iconic Disney classics that are The Little Mermaid and Aladdin (among others). That same level of charm and wonder that is seen in those films is captured once again in this feature as it provides a heart-filled story, tremendous animation, excellent music and a great cast.
|One major complaint: That adorable pig did not have a big enough part.|
|A singing crab? This feels familiar...wasn't that|
The most notable elements that worked in Moana’s favor are the eye-popping animation and the music from Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda (you might have heard of that guy. He got famous for a little show called Hamilton). The animation is a jaw-dropping and wondrous combination of computer animation and hand-drawn 2D work. These two styles work so well in concert that, at the time of viewing, I never realized that certain parts (like Maui’s emotive tattoo) were hand drawn. Additionally, the water effects for the ocean are absolutely stunning and never once stopped impressing me the entire time I watched it. And speaking of stunning, the songs supplied in this film are toe-tappingly catchy and the score sets the perfect tone for the tropical backdrop.
|It's like Waterworld...but if Waterwold was good.|
|Heihei's favorite Alice in Chains song?|
Man in the Box.
While I admit that it was the promise of The Rock providing a voice that brought me to the show (or got me to but the Blu-Ray, as it were), I was overall really impressed with the entire voice acting cast. It’s cool hearing Jango Fett himself as Chief Tui (and I’m such a Star Wars geek that I picked out his voice immediately after his first line), I loved the small but memorable role that Jemaine Clement brought as the giant crab Tamatoe (who sings like David Bowie, nonetheless!) and it was pretty fun to learn that it was Alan Tudyk behind the voice of the intelligence-lacking roster; Heihei. Naturally, Dwayne Johnson brings his trademark charm to Maui but I was incredibly impressed with Auli’i Cravalho as Moana. This was her first film and she really nailed the character and captured Moana’s determination and drive.
|"Well, since my daughter just left, I might as well see what my son Boba can do."|
|Who would have thought a lava demon would|
contain so much lava?
Finally, while the movie may hit a lot of the familiar tropes that you see in Disney’s storytelling (or really any stories or fairytales that have stood the test of time), the tale is still a wildly imaginative one that offers up some timeless morals as well as a look at the mythology of another culture. The story has its heart, humor and drama but I was really enthralled with the hero’s journey of Moana. She proves to be a great strong female lead who is deeper than your usual Disney princess (not that I’m saying there is anything wrong with them). Moana is endlessly driven but also human and is prone to being overwhelmed by what is thrown at her. This aspect could have easily come off as cheesy or just your average hero’s tale but the way the story is crafted and executed made the thing feel like it isn’t your run-of-the-mill adventure but rather a momentous one with undertones of independence, personal responsibility and heroics, all taken by a very captivating character.
|Man, that just looks epic. Let's get this airbrushed on the side of a van.|
As much as I was taken with Moana, I’m not entirely sure if this will end up being one of those Disney films that I hold near and dear to my heart and it probably won’t get much replay value from me (I will watch it again, mind you, but it probably won’t enter a regular rotation). That being said, the film is still terrific and has that certain Disney magic and awe-inspiring wonder. Plus, you can’t beat Jemaine Clement as a large crab impersonating David Bowie, Alan Tudyk playing a roster and The Rock just being stupidly entertaining and amusing.