The latest creation from Disney.
The resurgence of Walt Disney Animation Studios continues with Moana – a buoyant adventure set mostly on the open ocean. It’s vibrant and fun, familiar but not overly so. It concerns Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of an island chieftain who’s destined to follow in his footsteps. But when the island succumbs to an ancient curse that runs it dry of food, Moana defies her father’s strict orders and ventures off into the ocean in search of Maui (Dwayne Johnson), the demigod responsible for her people’s plight.
With a soundtrack co-written by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda (soon to be seen opposite Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns), Moana sings, while the narrative ticks all the boxes, occasionally coming into its own, whether it’s in the brother-sister rapport between Moana and Maui, or in a surrealist underwater encounter with a humongous crab voiced by Jermaine Clement. As you’d expect from a Disney film, the visuals are superb. Water is used in interesting ways, almost being a character of its own, and the vistas are filled with such breathtaking beauty.
Comic relief comes predominately from Maui, though there’s also a stowaway chicken whose downright stupidity and shocked expressions provide many moments of laughter. But none of that ever takes the focus of the meaningful messages at the films core. As Maui, Johnson really shines, though he’s matched every step of the way by newcomer Cravalho. The passionate ballad she sings about finding her calling out with the limits of the island is sure to become an instant hit thanks to its infectious chorus.
Perhaps the best aspect of Moana, however, is how embracing of female empowerment it is. There is no prince in sight, and that’s absolutely fine. Moana’s arc is as much about finding harmony for her people as it is about discovering who she really is, free of the boundaries and expectations put on her by her family, and the mini exploits she has along the way, including one that brilliantly riffs off Mad Max: Fury Road, are the icing on the cake of a boundlessly charming entry into the Disney canon. Her voice is one that’s likely to inspire a whole heap of young kids.
GT gives Moana — 4/5