It’s Disney’s most wonderful time of the year, with one of their most anticipated films of the year finally getting its coveted Christmastime release. With a lot of heart, and their catchiest tunes to date, Moana has finally washed up on Australian shores.
Destined to become chief of her village one day, young Moana has lived on the island of Motonui her whole life. When her island begins to feel the effects of an ancient curse, Moana must answer the call of the ocean to find the ancient demigod Maui and make things right.
As Disney’s first princess film where the girl doesn’t have to get a man, Moana is a brilliant story of empowerment and discovery. Torn between serving her people as chief and sailing the ocean like she always dreamed, Moana’s conflict between duty and desire is relatable and moving, her love for her family absolutely shining in her relationship with cheeky grandmother Tala. Her journey across the sea is exciting as she befriends Maui and becomes more confident in her wayfaring skills, and getting to know Maui is also a delight, as Dwayne Johnson’s charisma and charm translates wonderfully to the self obsessed yet kind demigod as he guides Moana to her destination.
Yet even he is more than he seems, and his tragic backstory makes the film yet more moving, and watching him triumph against his demons is just as sweet as when Moana does. A highlight of the film is also Maui’s little Mini-Me tattoo, which works as the film’s best comic relief, against the slightly dragging chicken name Hei Hei. The film’s only slow point is it’s detour to the Cave of Monsters, resulting in a painful scene with a giant crab, but the beautiful ending as Moana finally reaches Te Fiti to lift the curse is worth it as the high point of the score and animation.
Because Disney’s animation only keeps getting better: Moana boasts some of their most beautiful animation to date, with the animated water so realistic (even better than Finding Nemo) that it looks like it was filmed live. This dazzling hyper-realism is complimented beautifully by vividly colourful islands and creatures, including an imaginative dream-like sequence and a haunting ghostly scene, which are enhanced by the film’s Polynesian setting and mythos and make the film so much richer.
And the all-important soundtrack is also a beautiful celebration of Polynesian history and culture, with Mark Mancina’s score working wonders with Opetaia Foa’i and Lin Manuel Miranda’s original songs. These songs are bound to get stuck in your head (I’ve been singing You’re Welcome for weeks now), and the whole voice cast is brilliant, both in singing and vocal performance, but especially Auli’i Cravalho. She may be a newcomer, but she gives Moana such strength and passion, kindness and humour, and armed with words from Lin Manuel Miranda, she is even stronger when she sings.
On the surface, Moana’s journey to break the curse and save her island is what makes her strong. But her greater victory is against her conflict between her duty to her people and her own happiness, and that love for her family is what makes her journey compelling, making Moana easily one of Disney’s greatest princesses. With wonderful characters and a moving story, breathtaking visuals and an extremely catchy soundtrack, Moana is a beautiful film about following your heart.8/10.
I’m a bit of a fan of The Rock. Who isn’t? So here’s my list of the top five films starring the cast of Moana:
- Fast Five – Dwayne Johnson
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Rachel House and Oscar Kightley
- Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones – Temuera Morrison
- Big Hero 6 – Alan Tudyk
- What We Do In The Shadows – Jemaine Clement
Photos taken from IMDB.com: