Quick Hit: A wonderful soundtrack with breathtaking island songs, Moana starts extremely fresh before going slightly stagnant in the second half.
I like the way Disney has been slowly branching out culturally over the years. I understand some of the movies have had some racist undertones reflective of the times (Dumbo and Aladdin at times), but these days I think the intent is more on the education of other cultures. Disney moves kids around the world with their movies, and presents people as just that: people. It doesn’t matter what color we are folks, as long as we all enjoy a good flick.
Moana is just that, a good movie. It follows the young chieftess-to-be Moana, a young girl so touched by the feeling of wanderlust that she all but swims off the island that is her home. Her father works tirelessly to keep her on the island, but his mother consistently refers to a time of gods and of wandering. One demi-god that her stories refer to is Maui, a mischievous demi-god (think Loki but more Hawaiian and more buff), who stole the heart of one of the goddesses. Moana’s mission, as passed down by her grandmother, is to return the heart to the goddess by forcing Maui to help her.
The songs are the best part of Moana. Much like the Hawaiian people themselves, they’re filled with color and motion. There are almost no songs when the singer stands still, and that’s for the better. It infuses the songs with the motion of the singer, and you absolutely feel the rhythm of the songs (my shoulders swung and my feet tapped along). The vocal performances, especially by Auli’I Cravalho, are inspiring. I can’t imagine anyone else singing the songs, and that’s something because many Disney movies could be substituted with other vocal artists (hence their constant covering by others). Of particular note is Jermaine Clement (yes of Flight of the Concords) playing a giant hermit crab who is a stand-in representative of Smaug (ie he collects shiny things).
Unfortunately, when the story itself turns to the meat of the story (essentially the story of both Moana and Maui growing up), the momentum begins to stall. Maui just isn’t that interesting, and his story essentially is that he’s scared (or perhaps more accurately, he has performance anxiety). There isn’t much other motivation, and I feel like the movie focuses too much on him instead of Moana. She’s absolutely the most interesting character, and when the story is focused on her journey, I was much more interested.
There’s plenty of comedy throughout Moana, a lot of it focusing on a small chicken. I wasn’t a huge fan (though I did chuckle a time or two), mainly just because the jokes were repeated over and over. I understand that it’s a kids’ movie, but I don’t excuse lazy comedy very often. I still think the scene of the giant hermit crab takes the cake for being the funniest. Clement has a talent for delivery of his lines, and it’s fun to watch his dry delivery through the animation.
Overall, Moana is a good film. It’s fun and you’ll immediately want to buy the soundtrack. I didn’t find it exceptional, but it is above average. Therefore, it’s going to get a “”B” from me.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"