Director : Ron Clements & John Musker
Starring : Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger
2016 has been a tremendous year for Disney. The top 4 highest grossing films of the year all have ties with the studio. Zootropolis & The Jungle Book both sit in the Top 4. Along with Captain America: Civil War & Finding Dory, with both Marvel & Pixar having affiliation with Disney, making it a dominant year for the company. There was still time in the year for one more release; can Moana match the sensational Zootropolis from earlier in the year?
Simply put, yes! What we get is a story that is as refreshing as Mulan, which breaks away from most traditional Disney themes.
The film follows the journey of our title heroine, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of the island chief, who rules the tribe on a Polynesian tropical paradise. Although she is warned by her father several times to not venture beyond the island reefs, she longs for adventure, eager to see what lies beyond the horizon. Moana is tasked to return a sacred gem, back to its original resting place. In order to fulfil this, she must search for demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who stole the gem in the first place and now must aid her to take it back, otherwise without the gem returning, her island will eventually perish.
What makes the movie great is the perseverance of our heroine. Even after she meets the charming Maui, she still wants to prove herself. It would have been easy to let her take the back seat, and let the muscle do all the work! Maui also proves a big hit, with Dwayne Johnson bringing all his enduring charisma to the part. His role in Central Intelligence was abit awkward, but here, his act is perfect, Maui wasn’t bad, he was simply trying to help humans by gifting them the gem, unaware of its consequences, he has no ulterior motive. All he wanted was the adulation from the people he serves. Plus, his humour is on point, and the interactions with Moana are one of the brightest points of the film. Speaking of humour, Moana’s pet rooster, Heihei, provides plenty of laughs, he is the smartest of animals, even the creators have called him the stupidest character in any Disney film!
If Frozen had the theme of Ice & Snow, than the essence here is Water & Ocean. This allows the production team to use some amazing animation, especially with all the water that’s around! Zootropolis may have been incredibly detailed, but this movie is unbelievably beautiful at times. The Ocean itself is a sentient being, and has its occasional moments of banter with the audience! The subject of the film is sailing and exploration, anyone who has played the Zelda video game, The Wind Waker, will have a comforting feeling! We see Moana go from a rookie, to a master navigator, with the help of our Demigod!
With this being a Disney film, means that of course, you’ll have your fair share of song and dance. The film even makes a joke referring to the ‘breaking out in song’ troupe! The main recurring song though, sang by Cravalho, is a rather powerful melody, which will leave you humming it even after you’ve left the cinema!
The film still has a few clichés, we have the usual death of a character, which pushes our heroine to start her quest. The departing character also comes back in spirit, when our protagonist is at her lowest. The song that follows seemed a bit abrupt and ill-fitting of the situation. It would have been like Mufasa going into a song when he returned to talk to Simba! We also have the predictable moment when the two heroes fall out, which happens in most films, so can’t take away too many points for that!
With the Christmas break coming up, I would highly recommend you check this out with friends and family! The film has not received the same level of marketing and hype as previous films here in the UK, which is a tad disappointing. With is blend of gorgeous visuals, engaging story and plentiful humour, it’s one of the best Disney animations to come in the few few decades.