There was a time where Pixar was king of CGI animated films and Walt Disney Animation Studios took a back seat to the hits that Pixar was pumping out on a yearly basis. As of late, the studios have changed seats. With recent hits such as “Tangled”, “Wreck-It Ralph”, “Frozen” and “Zootopia”, Walt Disney Animation has shown they are a force to be reckoned with. “Moana” is the studio’s 56th animated film for Disney, but does “Moana” deliver or does it sink to the bottom of The Pacific?
“Moana” comes to us courtesy of the team of legendary Disney directors, Ron Clements and John Musker. Clements and Musker were responsible for the following Disney classics:
- The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
- The Little Mermaid (1989)
- Aladdin (1992)
- Hercules (1997)
- Treasure Planet (2002)
- The Princess and the Frog (2009)
“Moana” is Clements and Musker’s first CGI film for Disney.
Moana (Auli’l Cravalho) is the daughter of Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) and is being instructed by her father to become the leader of their tribe. Moana soon demonstrates that she is a wise and beloved leader. The survival of the tribe is threatened by some plague-like events which forces Moana to make a decision as to whether to disobey her father’s wishes or journey beyond the safe shores of her island home and search for the legendary demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson), with hopes that he can save her village from famine and extinction.
“Moana” is a movie that is bound to be another Disney classic. It is a movie that is fun for the whole family. It has a fairly original story, an enjoyable musical score and it is a visual feast for the eyes. Clements and Musker continue to show that they still have the skills to deliver impressive work blending both story and music together. The voice cast was perfectly cast especially newcomer Auli’l Cravalho, who provides the voice of Moana. I would say that the message for this film is to believe in yourself and that you will find you can do things that even you didn’t believe you were capable of doing, especially if it is for the good of others. And that is a great message to both kids and adults.
‘The animation in “Moana” is one of the most beautiful films that the Walt Disney Animation Studios has ever made. I noticed a lot of new and innovative techniques displayed in this movie and it’s great to see that the animators are always looking to advance the art of CGI animation instead of rest on their laurels. The colorful tropical setting, the ocean and especially Maui’s hair really stand out.
You can tell that Disney has been going after both demographics, girls and boys, with having two main characters for each. One being a strong independent princess and the other being a demigod warrior voiced by a wrestler. I feel like the advertising has been pushing Maui on us more than Moana, but make no mistakes, this is Moana’s story and she is great role model for all children, not just girls. She follows in the footsteps as such classic Disney Princesses such as Ariel and Rapunzel by showing strong independence and a thirst for adventure but she also shows so much love for her family similar to Anna and Elsa. Speaking of love, there is no love story. Kind of odd not to have a love story in a Disney princess movie, but it is a nice break too and I thought it made it a better movie.
The animal sidekicks are great in this movie. We dont see much of Pua The Pig but he is a cute character that both kids and adults will love. Heihei The Rooster has a larger supporting role and steals almost every scene he is in. Both are examples where you dont always need talking animals for comedy to work. I also loved the Kakamora, who were living warrior/pirates coconuts. They definitely could have been Disney’s versions of The Minions but felt they could have used more screen time.
Now for the negative, and for the most part they are minor.
Dwayne Johnson does a good job of voicing Maui, but I liked his performance better when he spoke as a more traditional Southern Pacific-an. Dwayne Johnson throws in a lot of his enthusiastic personality, including his “Rock” persona. I am never a fan of American slang and modern phrases ending up in movies that take place in a particular time period and locations outside of the United States. I was thinking of how Andre The Giant in “The Princess Bride” blew away The Rock’s performance. Andre never threw in lines like “body slamming” but would make rhymes about peanuts that made everyone laugh. I felt the directors may have asked Johnson to ad-lib, or maybe it was of his own doing, but it was too much. The Genie in “Aladdin” worked because it was something new and it had Robin Williams just being himself. But what Williams has done has been copied for almost 25 years and it’s getting old. I could do without adding hip stuff to movies that don’t require it. Dwayne Johnson seems like a great guy but he always plays himself in every movie he is in.
I wasn’t crazy about the character of Maui. He basically was a jerk and an attention freak. And when you get to the end of the movie, you realize that he really messed things up for everyone in this movie, even more-so that you thought. He is a fun character, and at one point you have sympathy for the character, but ….. he is still a jerk. I did research about the mythological character Maui and in Hawaiian mythology he was kind of like Hercules. I wouldn’t call Maui a hero in this movie. Just that his arrogance and conceit caused a lot of people pain. More than half the movie was about Moana trying to convince Maui that only he could save her people after what he did that caused all of the problems that everyone had to begin with. Moana is the real hero of this movie.
Also Disney, PLEASE! Lay off the butt and peeing jokes in your movies! You should be better than other animated studios and shouldn’t have to find humor by using toilet humor.
Going into the movie, I knew that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote songs for the movie. The only thing that I knew about him was that he wrote the music and starred in the play “Hamilton”. To me, Lin-Manuel Miranda is no Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The music that they wrote for “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty And The Beast” were classics. All very memorable and forever in most peoples mind’s when they think of Disney. Most of the songs in “Moana” are either hit or miss and not very memorable. It sounds more like Miranda had a Broadway musical in mind and I know that it will inevitably hit Broadway or a Disney Cruise Ship. At times, I felt his lyrics could have been written by a gradeschooler. I kept guessing what his rhyming lyric was going to be and was usual right. Daughter, let me guess? Water! BINGO. “How Far I Go” is without a doubt the best song from the movie, but I swear they must have played that song at least 4 times during the movie. It’s a great piece but “How Far I Go” is no “Let It Go”.
Speaking of music, the absolute worst character in the movie had to be Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement). Tamatoa was a giant crab that lived deep in the ocean and had a love for all things shiny. Jemaine Clement sings a song called “Shiny” and it is awful. It has to be one of the worst songs ever made for a Disney movie and again Miranda uses his genius to rhyme such words as “shiny” and “hiney”. Like I said, enough with the butt jokes, Disney. That song and scene totally felt so out of place. It was weird, it was boring and was so not needed. They could have cut that 10 minutes out of the movie and it would have flowed so much better. Definitely skipping that chapter when the movie comes out on Blu-ray.
My last negative was the pre-movie short, “Inner Workings”. It’s like “Paperman” and “Inside Out” had a baby. An ugly baby. Again, more potty humor of peeing, uninspired animation and a pure ripoff of the two movies I previously mentioned. I was kind of disappointed that “Zootopia” did not have a short before it, but if they were going to make something like this, they were better off. If your running late for “Moana”, you may have actually done yourself a favor.
Image Source: Entertainment Weekly
I know I listed a lot of negatives but I still really enjoyed “Moana” and I highly recommend it. I actually enjoyed this more than “Frozen” and “Finding Dory” but not as much as “Zootopia”. I believe most Disney fans will really love this film and will look forward to adding this movie to their Disney library. The verdict is still out as to whether this will be a classic or not. Only time will tell. But i think it will. And I hope it will.
I give “Moana” an 8/10.