Produced By: – Osnat Shurer
Directed By: – Ron Clemenets, John Musker
Starring: – Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
Runtime: – 103 minutes (1hr 43 minutes)
The Ocean Is Calling
Despite all that has gone wrong this year, it has been a good year for animated movies. This year alone we’ve seen Walt Disney studios use the animals of Zootopia (or Zootroplis depending on your region) as a mature and kid friendly allegory for racism and drug use. We have seen Video game movies take a step in the right direction through Ratchet and Clank and The Angry Birds Movie, which to my surprise weren’t terrible movies. Viewers were also blessed with the beautiful yet haunting Kubo and the Two Strings. Disney Pixar once again delivered the goods with their long awaited sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory and we got two really good features in the guise of Storks and The Secret Life of Pets. 2016 is now being rounded off with Trolls and today’s piece, which is Walt Disney’s second animated feature that also doubles as a musical to be released this year.
Disney’s 56th Animated feature uses Polynesian aesthetics and culture to tell the story of Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), a young teenage girl who lives in the Island of Motunui. She is on the verge of becoming the first female chief in the proud history of her tribe and in a forward-thinking fashion she chooses to lead the people on her own terms. She genuinely enjoys her responsibilities but at times feels that she is destined for something greater as she feels that the Ocean is calling to her both figuratively and literally despite the fact her Parents Chief Tui (Temura Morrison) and Sina (Nicole Scherzinger) have forbidden her from going beyond the reef. Things begin to change when the natural resources of the island begin to die. Moana realizes that she can no longer follow the rules and must venture out of the island to find food and other resources. Her kooky but ultimately wise grandmother Tala (Rachel House) tells her the truth about her ancestors as she belongs to a long line of navigators. She also informs her about the island’s predicament through the story of Maui, a shape-shifting Demi God who put the world in danger when he stole the heart of the world from Te Fiti an island goddess who created all life. During his daring heist a lava demon confronted him and defeated him which as a result meant he lost his fishhook the source of his power and the Heart that takes form as a Pounamu stone. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Motunui except Tala, the stone appeared in front of Moana, which indicates that the ocean chose her as the saviour when she was a baby. With everything explained she sets out with the purpose to find the shape-shifting Demi-God who can help her return the heart of Te Fiti back from where he once stole it.
This animated feature is produced Osnat Shurer and is directed by the creative minds behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, Ron Clements and John Musker as they blend old elements like having an empowered female protagonist who fights and sings her way through adversity and combines it with newer ones like the computer generated images and the unique setting which serves as the first time Disney has used Polynesian culture to tell a story. The movie also features music by Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda, a man who is known for creating and starring in Broadway musicals Hamilton and In The Heights. The film voice cast introduces the world to Auli’i Cravalho as the titular Moana and features the voice of Hollywood’s hardest working, richest and sexiest man (according to people magazine) Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui. Joining them is Rachel House, Temurea Harrison, Jermaine clement, Nicole Scherzinger and Alan Tudyk who are helping to sound off the supporting characters. With that said this movie has all the elements to be one of if not the best-animated feature of the year and probably as one of the greatest of all time. The question we must now ask ourselves is that does this movie deliver on that front? Lets find out.
- We can’t have a review without discussing whether the protagonist is memorable or not. Moana is an awesome character thanks to the fact she has many traits associated with the typical Disney heroine but also shatters a lot of conventions thanks to her attitude which makes her stand above many others. For a first time performance you have to give props to the Hawaiian born Auli’i Cravalho as Moana as she voices the main character with conviction. She brings a certain level of charm to the role, which makes her lively character enjoyable to watch.
- I must give praise to the Maui, the shape shifting Demi-God. I really appreciate how layered this character is as when he is first introduced in the opening minutes as a trickster, many would automatically assume that he is villainous and mischievous in nature but as the story progresses we get an opportunity to learn about his history and motivations and it paints the picture that there is more than meets the eyes with this inflated and bulky individual. Maui also bucks the usual trend of Disney male leads (except Beast) being slim and lean and the way he is portrayed in this film shatters the impression that this character is one-dimensional. The character works thanks to Dwayne Johnson’s ability to bring his usual charisma, charm and comedic timing. He also gets the rare opportunity to flex his dramatic chops when Maui gets his moments to be sincere which helps the character become more likeable and somewhat relatable. His larger than life character is weirdly comparable to the late and great Robin Williams performance as the Genie in Aladdin as he also sings one of the film’s signature songs that reminds me of “ Friend like me” and has some of the best lines which poke fun of pop culture and usual Disney tropes which are exemplified when he says “ writing with a bird is called Tweeting” and “ Chief, Princess. Same Difference”. One of the coolest aspects of the character is the moving tattoos that are drawn over his body. The tattoos were made with hand-drawn animation the tattoos move, communicate and bicker with Maui as they act as his voice of reason and they also represent the crowd telling Maui that he should do the right thing. To conclude this particular point Maui is without a doubt going to be remembered as one of Disney’s best characters.
- One of the most endearing elements of the film is the relationship between the Moana and Maui. In a movie that lacks a traditional villain, their rapport provides for most of the films tension. For most of the journey we see Maui mock Moana for her naivety and inexperience whilst she berates Maui for his arrogance and selfishness. Despite their differences, they begin to realize they need each other and they teach each other how to be better. All in all it is really refreshing to see Disney opt for a platonic relationship instead of a romantic one and it makes the movie more intriguing as a result.
- Besides the main characters, I can tell you with full confidence that the movies strong supporting cast are also memorable characters. The crowd will love Grandma Tala (Rachel House) blend of zaniness and wisdom that is similar to Rafiki of lion King. Alan Tudyk turn as Hei Hei, a brain dead rooster with a penchant for swallowing items will give you one or two laughs and even the Ocean itself that acts as a guide and guardian has a great personality and also provides the film with one or two chuckles.
- The animation and visuals in this movie is simply fantastic. From the movies amazing water effects, to the lush islands, colours and character designs that have that distinct Disney look fused with the unique look of Lilo & Stitch , Moana will make you appreciate how far the animation industry has come . Words are not enough to describe how amazing this movie looks and simply implore you to witness it for yourself. The Action set pieces are also very note worthy. A highlight of mine, which I won’t spoil, was a great homage to Mad Max: Fury Road.
- The movies theme is one that I can resonate with. The film tries to remind us that in order to fulfill our destinies or get our greatest desires we must be willing to walk outside our comfort zone and brave the storm to reaching our goals. This is perfectly relayed through Moana story.
- Lets get this point out of the way, if you are expecting this movie to match and or surpass Frozen ‘s legendary soundtrack you are going to be sorely disappointed in this regard. With that said that doesn’t mean that the film’s soundtrack isn’t stellar, as its songs will also be stuck in your head for a while. From the film’s main song “How Far I’ll go” and its various reprises to Dwayne Johnson’s song “you’re welcome” to the David Bowie sounding “Shiny” sung by a giant crab Tamota voiced by Jermaine Clement. There is something you for to enjoy and I am pretty certain people will buy the movie’s soundtrack.
- This movie to me feels like the embodiment of the term the journey is the destination as the climatic battle in the end is a little underwhelming despite how visually arresting it is. Compared to the rest of the movie this particular sequence marks the movie down a little bit. When you have had so much fun getting there this blemish is not big enough to break the movie’s momentum.
Moana is fantastic hero journey that boast amazing visuals, characters, music and a heartfelt message that kids and adults alike can relate to. This movie is without a doubt one of the best-animated features of the year and possibly of all time.
RATING: – MUST WATCH!!