Action, Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Music, Musical

Moana (2016)

Comments Off on Moana (2016) 24 March 2017

Moana (2016)

Moana (2016)
Walt Disney Pictures
Theatrical Release Date: November 23, 2016
Home Release: March 7, 2017
Actors: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
Genre: Comedy, Kids, Family, Action, Adventure
Rated: PG

Review by Dominick DeLuca

Walt Disney Pictures has dominated the box office the last few years after their acquisition of the Star Wars franchise and the astronomical success of the Marvel universe.  However, if there’s one thing besides the iconic mouse that goes by the name Mickey, Walt Disney is known for their princesses.  For the first time since Frozen, Walt Disney has jumped back in the saddle of creating a strong female lead to tell their story.In a current climate where minorities and women oppressed by a government casting them to the side and throwing away regard for quality of life, it’s inspiring to have a Walt Disney “princess” like Moana step up to the challenge and inspire children of all races and genders.  In the context of America’s recent political follies she represents hope and the power of will.  Moana shows that anyone can be a hero, no matter what classification you belong to.  Anyone has the power and the right to stand up for themselves and their people.  The people they love, the people like them, or anyone.  It’s a lesson in human decency and compassion that our country has seem to forgotten.

In a current climate where minorities and women oppressed by a government casting them to the side and throwing away regard for quality of life, it’s inspiring to have a Walt Disney “princess” like Moana step up to the challenge and inspire children of all races and genders.  In the context of America’s recent political follies she represents hope and the power of will.  Moana shows that anyone can be a hero, no matter what classification you belong to.  Anyone has the power and the right to stand up for themselves and their people.  The people they love, the people like them, or anyone.  It’s a lesson in human decency and compassion that our country has seem to forgotten.

Moana is the story of a girl who has grown up on a tropical island as the Chief’s daughter.  Raised on the morals of a friendly island community where everyone pulls their weight and the folklore passed down from older generations, Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) finds her true calling as a woman of the sea.  Her grandmother tells the story of the goddess of the islands who had her heart stone stolen by the shape-shifting warrior, Maui (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), to gain the powers of creating life.  Once stolen, death befalls the chains of islands and eventually reaches Moana’s home island of Mata Nui.  The fish vanish and the trees no longer bear fruit.  In order to save the island, Moana channels the courage of her voyager ancestors and sets off to find the magical fish hook-wielding warrior, Maui, and her fowl friend, HeiHei.  Once she finds Maui, the adventure really begins as they traverse the ocean across the chain islands to return the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti, and save her home island from starvation.

Moana is an extremely charismatic and likable character.  The humor is perfectly timed and Cravalho gives her enough personality to shine through the animation to really give her depth.  She has a certain humility and awkward about her that makes her relateable to everyone.  At times, you forget you’re watching an animated character and almost feels like a live action film.  To Walt Disney’s credit, this is in part by the stunning technology and landscapes.  While the faces and bodies are cartoonish and exaggerated, the fine details are what draw you in visually.  The single strands of hair, the movement and shimmer of the ocean, the wind in the trees really creates a world for the audience.  I wouldn’t be surprised if tourism to Hawaii spiked after people saw this movie.

While Moana is the hero of this tale, Maui is actually the character who has more growth during the journey.  He starts out as an extremely narcissistic person who is living out his days alone on a desert island, reminiscing of his past accomplishments.  This is further emphasized by his signature song ‘You’re Welcome’.  He reminds me of Al Bundy telling people about his four touchdown game back when he was the star fullback at Polk High School.  After being convinced to return the stone, he slowly begins to warm up to Moana and become more selfless.  By the end of the film, he had displayed more change than any other character.  This is the kind of change that also inspires compassion and selflessness that the world needs today.

To briefly touch on the music, this movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best original song.  I think that speaks for itself.  Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator and composer of the hit musical, Hamilton) offered up his creative and musically inclined mind to Moana.  “How Far I’ll Go” sets the tempo for the movie with it’s rhythmic instrumentals and an acoustic gutiar giving it a softness.  The hip-hop like and strong lyrical flow, combined with the melodic vocals by Cravalho made it a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination.

My biggest issue with the movie was the villain.  In most Disney movies, there’s always the charismatic villain that everyone loves to hate.  They always exude heavy personalities and stand perfect opposition from our heroes.  Jafar, Hades, Ursula, Gaston, Cruella De Vil, Scar, Maleficent, Captain Hook, Evil Queens and Stepmothers.  They all had big roles opposite of our heroes and provided contrast that Moana desperately needed.  While Te Kā was scary looking and lit up with hellfire and molten rock from the islands, she had no personality and was more of an idea, than a character.

Overall, Moana gets my approval and I plan on watching it again in 3D mode.  I think the extra dimension will really make the movie come alive.  In spite of recent backlash for “gay scene” in the live action Beauty and The Beast movie, I hope Walt Disney continues to progress and push diversity to our children. Exposure to other cultures is important for any person.  Hopefully, it can help tear down boundaries in an extremely divided country.

Bonus Features:

Symnopsis:
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana,” the sweeping story of a spirited teenager who sets sail on a daring adventure to save her people, starring newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho as the voice of brave and tenacious Moana and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (HBO’s “Ballers,” “Central Intelligence”) as the larger-than-life demigod Maui, has dazzled both critics and audiences. The film earned a 95% critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes and the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office opening weekend. Now, “Moana” arrived for home sales on Digital HD/3D and Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) on Feb. 21, and on Blu-ray 3D™, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand on March 7.

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