It’s been a long time coming this review, though it hasn’t actually been that long since I first saw the film! Contrastingly, because I have a young daughter, I have seen this film approximately more times than their are atoms in the universe. You would think that would have turned this film into something worthy of my worst nightmare, but no, that is reserved for an unlikely scenario where I am challenged to a press up competition by a giant moth! Don’t ask!
If I haven’t scared you off already let’s talk about Moana. One of Disney’s most recent productions and in my humble opinion, one of the best (not including Star Wars or comic book movies though). I’m not going to give you a play by play of the film but I will chuck a few spoilers around as I want to talk about some of my favourite bits. So if you haven’t seen the film yet and don’t want it spoiled, GET OUT!
Reading the back of DVD case gives us this:
“An epic adventure about a spirited teen who sets sail on a daring mission to save her people. Along the way Moana meets the once mighty demigod Maui, and together they cross the ocean on a fun-filled, action-packed voyage”
This film is most definitely fun and has some action (towards the end mostly) but it has something slightly different to other Disney films, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson! No, seriously, this film breaks away from most of the common Disney tropes and it’s refreshing!
Yes Moana is a princess, but she isn’t in need of rescue. Probably inspired by the strong leading characters of Frozen, Anna and Elsa, Moana is told she is destined to be the chief of her island and should not strive for anything else. She is a princess that doesn’t want to be one! At first she is naive, ignoring the warnings of her parents and listening the exciting stories of her grandma who just seems to want to cause trouble.
Through her journey she grows, becomes stronger and independant, finds herself in the great ocean, as well as a whole heap of trouble. Moana is the hero, there is no doubt about that! And it doesn’t hurt to have the literal ocean as an ally! It chose her for this quest and actually helps her out!
The voice acting is brilliant. Auli’i Cravalho has not only perfect comic timing and a tone that is full of emotion, she has a wonderful singing voice! She can definitely carry a tune!
Yes there are songs and for the most part they are brilliant! If you don’t end up humming at least one of the tunes for all eternity then there is something wrong with you. All the songs are relevant to the story and don’t feel forced for the sole purpose of selling a tie-in album. They add to the visuals, give context to what we are seeing, entertaining and (thankfully for someone who struggles to remember his own name on occasions) easy to remember.
Yes there is an animal sidekick. One of the weaker parts of the film is the presence of mentally challenged chicken called Hei Hei. He of course gets himself into trouble, forcing Moana to divert her attention to rescuing at times when she really needs to be focusing on the job in hand. But like all annoying sidekicks, Hei Hei comes in useful at the end of the film, effectively preserving Moana’s chance of saving the day.
I was a bit confused at the addition of another animal sidekick in the form of a pig called Pua. At the beginning of the film it looks like Pua will be joining Moana on her journey but instead Hei Hei stows away on her boat. Even though these animals are annoying, the film itself is aware of the trope. Johnson’s character Maui even says, she a daughter of a chief, wears and dress and has an animal sidekicks, she’s a princess!
Speaking of sidekicks, let’s talk about Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the wind and Sea, Hero of Man….and Women. Maui is brilliant, brash, rude, funny, eventually brave and he can sing! More accurately, The Rock can sing, who knew!? He is not the hero you expect at first but of course goes through some development himself and rises to the occasion.
Even though he is essentially a superhero, he does not outshine Moana, she even puts him in his place several times and keeps surprising him! I love the relationship Maui has with his tattoos, that sounds weird if you haven’t seen the film but trust me it’s great. And of course who doesn’t love a shapeshifter! I don’t want to go in too much detail about the Demigod as I think it’s best left to experience yourself, but it was perfect casting. No wonder The Rock was the highest paid actor of 2016 if he can do things like this!
Before I gush over this film too much it isn’t perfect. There’s was one particular character, a large crustacean that I wasn’t too fond of and his song doesn’t quite reach the same level at the rest of the score. Voiced by Jermaine Clement, too much was made of this giant crab. I get it was a necessary plot point but we spend a good 10 minutes with a character that adds nothing to the story other than showing that Maui is vulnerable.
The ending of the film is emotional, it’s touch and go for Moana and Maui in the final battle and our heroine shows her metal going up against the big bad alone to save the world. You will find yourself smiling uncontrollably even if you don’t like the film!
It’s becoming harder to prevent spoiler as I write so I’m going to leave it there. You won’t be disappointed with this film. It’s different enough from other Disney films to keep you interested and the main character is a strong female! It looks great, sounds better and you’ll be pushing that play button more times than you can count, even if you don’t have children begging you!
Moana gets 4 beans out of 5 on the Geekstalk.