What is up with Pixar and Disney lately? Pixar is just making cash grab sequels while Disney is consistently putting out original properties. This has to be some kind of revenge scheme somewhere in Disney’s bureaucracy.
But to be fair, Disney is sticking to their tried and true formula. Young, princess-y type girl in a unique setting, overcoming obstacles, and growing up in the process. This time around, it’s Moana (Auli’i Caravalho) daughter of the chief on an island somewhere in the Pacific. She has an innate desire to sail the ocean, but is held back by her father’s laws about never going beyond the barrier reef that protects them. But when the fish start to die and the coconuts dry up, the only thing that makes sense to Moana is her grandmother’s ancient tale about an island goddess who’s heart has been stolen. And the only way to return life to her island is to find the demi-god who took the heart stone and get him to return it to it’s rightful place.
It got a little mythical there, I know. But it’s an enjoyable little myth, pulling from Hercules rather than Frozen. It’s less fairy tale and more religious legend, as if those two aren’t fairly intertwined in our history.
By far, Moana’s main selling point is how absolutely gorgeous it is. The animation is just incredible. Anyone who does water this well deserves an award.
Second on the great list is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as Maui, the shape-shifting demi-god. He settles into the role of super strong, super ego driven secret softie that propels most of the plot forward. He also gets one of the better song offerings. You’ll be singing “you’re welcome” for quite a while. I kind of wish Moana was live action, because it would have been that much better to see The Rock do this in person.
If you like Disney musicals, Moana won’t disappoint. The songs are fun and impressively sung (thanks to Lin-Manual Miranda overseeing). Moana’s solo song, while more forgettable, is definitely better than Let it go. And little girls get another strong female character to look up to, one who holds her own against a gigantic lava monster.
I don’t think it’s groundbreaking. Just a nice, new setting to put a princess with a sidekick in. With some fun songs, witty banter, and gorgeous visuals to boot.
Also, Troy Palomalu plays one of the villagers, which is a nice touch.Look him up and you’ll know where they got Maui’s hair from.
3 out of 4 stars.