It seems there’s no stopping Disney at this point to win your hearts — after a string of very high quality films over the last few years Moana is yet another lovable addition to the slate. This is the kind of film people of absolutely any age can and should watch, and you don’t even need a review to be convinced to see it.
Directed by Ron Clements and John Murker who earlier made The Little Mermaid, Aladin and Hercules, Moana is quite a throwback to their earlier work. It’s got the same musical narrative style, a protagonist who goes on a quest and a very vintage Disney way of sweeping you off your feet with visual extravaganza. In this film we’re introduced to Moana (Auli’I Cravalho), the daughter of the chief of an island in Polynesia who has some sort of unknown affinity to the ocean. Her overprotective father does not allow her to go out to the sea, but when her grandmother falls sick she’s plunged into a seafaring adventure to chase a mysterious demigod named Maui (The Rock).
The journey across the sea makes the film a consistently entertaining adventure, with sweeping grand locations and epic scale beautifully complemented by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songs. The character of Maui is kind if like an amalgamation of the Genie from Aladin and Hercules — Maui keeps shifting forms and is a wiseass, proudly heroic to a fault. Maui also has some hilarious tattoos on his body that work like e-ink on a Kindle, reflecting his conscience. The back and forth between Maui and Moana is of course the highlight of the film, and it’s a predictably sweet and emotional bond between the two. Anyone watching the film will be able to connect with at least one of these two characters and there’s always something to take away and learn from them.
What is also fascinating is that there’s no real antagonist in the film — unlike most Disney movies there’s no evil character plotting doom. In fact the motivations of everyone you meet in the film, even the supposed bad guys make perfect sense. One supposed baddie, a crab covered in gold superbly voiced by Jeremie Clement sings about his vanity and ultimately makes you like the character instead of planting the idea of a ‘villain’ in the younger audiences’ minds. It’s a progressive method by Disney to adopt — to make kids understand that no one is bad innately, you just have to understand that the bad guy is irritable because there’s a missing piece in his life. And if you look closely or listen to their problems you might just be able to turn the bad guy into a good person. This theme is what makes Moana such a special and progressive character, because she’s a far cry from the age of Disney princesses whose only aim in life was to wait for a prince to come and rescue them.
Cravalho, who voices Moana is going to be a huge star soon, and if The Rock’s coming timing doesn’t surprise you her insane singing range certainly will. There’s a song in the film that will go down as the ‘Let it go’ of 2016 and run endlessly in your kids’ playlist. Watch the film on the biggest screen possible, take everyone you know with you, and if you’re lucky enough to find a 2D screen, go for that over the 3D version.