Moana (2016) – Film Review


As an Industry favorite, Disney and their product—to a movie-goer like myself—is something I’m always excited to see come to town. Moana was no different. So, finally, a week to the day of its release, I finally was able to squeeze into the theatre to catch a show. This movie’s been killing it at the box office—even surpassing JK Rowling’s Harry Potter spin-off. Let’s get into why that is, exactly.

This is a typical “hero’s journey” story, but the way that it’s told is fresh and fun. The character of Moana is far from your typical female protagonist; she gets work done, is unafraid of the perils before her, and is willing to do what’s necessary for her people to be safe and happy. She’s “no princess”, and she’s the first to admit it. She’s proud of it. Put her in a room full of men with twice her size and experience, and she’ll be able to out-perform them all.

Speaking of out-perform…

Auli’i Cravalho as the titular character and Dwayne Johnson as Maui are a perfect on-screen pairing. He’s been there—he’s done the whole hero thing, and it’s gotten him nothing but grief. She doesn’t want the status, but is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her island home from impending doom. Young Cravalho’s got a serious set of pipes on her, too, apart from being an excellent voice actress in her break-out role. Their on-screen dynamic is entertaining; her determination and good-nature really ground his pomp and eccentricity.

The score is amazing, very traditional. Disney brought in a large number of Islander help to make this story as authentic and atmospheric for non-Islanders as possible. Some of the musical numbers—of which there wasn’t an excessive amount—gave me chills (aided, no doubt, by the writing talent of Hamilton!’s Lin-Manuel Miranda). The animation was of a crisp and clean caliber, as well, but Disney’s always been famous for their production value. It was nothing surprising to see it so well-done, but the scope and grandiose nature of the world they paint is not done justice in the trailer; this is really a movie you must see for yourself, the most vivid since Finding Dory in June and Zootopia, from back in March.

Like in all of Disney’s films, the filmmakers attempt to tackle real-world problems. In this case, it’s Man’s relationship to Mother Earth. Maybe not to the kids, but it’s clear to the adults watching that every problem brought about in the film is a consequence of using and abusing the natural environment. The macguffin (no spoilers) is representative of our natural resources, and every problem that comes afterward is because of the spoiling of said resources. The film’s core message is how connected humanity is, and always will be, to the Earth, without getting preachy on us.

There are plenty of jabs that Disney takes at itself, and plenty of references to previous films. The beginning short was entertaining, as always, and genuine laughs abounded throughout the film. This is a great family movie; the kids and adults in the theatre were enjoying this one equally.

Moana gets a final ‘Risk Assessment of ****/* from me. Good to see that Disney is still turning out quality content.

Next review: Rogue One

Written by Evan Kern

Just a twenty-something filmie trudging through adulthood. Taking it day by day, movie by movie. Words are life...

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