Returning to Disney’s classic formula with tiki’s and grass skirts.
In Ancient Polynesia, Daughter of the chieftain of their island, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) sets out on an adventure to seek the infamous demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in hope to persuade him to return the heart of the goddess Te Fiti, which he stole many centuries ago.
With Zootopia setting the mark for this year’s animation, Moana had high expectations to meet. And even though Moana doesn’t excel in the fashion that Zootopia so elegantly establishes, with powerful metaphorical traits and social commentary, it still manages to hold strong on its own. The film grasps the key feature that is crucial to a successful (and moving) animation, which many continue to leave behind; it has heart. Disney’s latest animated picture is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The film shines most with its timeless original music, composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, featuring the hit soundtrack “How Far I’ll Go”, and “You’re Welcome”, sung by Dwayne Johnson, who was oddly fitting in terms of vocals.
Alongside Frozen, this marks as one of the few Disney ‘princess’ films where the protagonist’s love interest is absent. Moreover, the princess theme is lightly mocked by the production company itself, reiterating the message that she sits far from that label. It would have been a bold mistake for Disney to add yet another princess to its animated legacy.
Auli’i Cravalho performs stunning voice work as Moana; a vocal presence that stays with you after the viewing. And is there a more charming voice actor than Dwayne Johnson? Even in animated form, the Rock masters the goofy role, bringing Maui to life. Jemaine Clement makes for a worthy mention, singing a David Bowie-esque track, as one of (the many) antagonists in the film. A wave of antagonists made the film feel a little crowded and desperate in filling screen-time, but the ocean theme assists in begging its forgiveness.
Drenched in colour, and certain to expand one’s cultural repertoire, Moana is achingly beautiful. Though formulaic, its visuals mark as its strongest feature, aided by the memorable musical genre. It may not be as timeless as Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book, but it is hugely entertaining from start to finish.