A quirky young princess runs away from home with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to return a stolen stone to an island before mother nature kills everyone. Sound weird? It is. But I liked it. Here’s why:
This story centers around Moana, a Polynesian princess, who’s island is suffering because a demigod Maui stole a rock from a goddess. In reaction to a demigod having stolen this rock, of course, humans get punished for it. The trees won’t produce coconuts and the fish are leaving the waters around the island. There’s only one way for Moana to save her people. She has to make the demigod undo what he’s done. So she sets out to find him and force him to take the rock back. What ensues is a sweet, comical story punctuated by a really stupid chicken.
The animation here is on par for what we have come to expect from Disney. The special effects are excellent and the characters movements match perfectly with the voice-overs. You will get some stunning visuals throughout this movie ranging from the waters of the ocean to a giant fire-demon that the animators from Fantasia would be jealous of. They didn’t try for realism and I think it helps keep the movie a little more light-hearted than it otherwise might have been. The story line is odd. Its strange to watch a Disney movie where the princess doesn’t swoon over some guy until they finally get together at the end. I, for one, really liked that aspect. Not every princess follows some prince their entire adolescent life until he finally gives in and accepts them. In retrospect other Disney movies are kind of creepy and center around stalkers.
Back to the story here. It’s loosely based on Polynesian mythology concerning Maui the demigod. The acts mentioned in the song “You’re Welcome” that Dwayne Johnson voices in the movie are actual things that the Demigod was credited with. I had never really looked into Polynesian mythology until I started writing this review, but some of it is rather interesting and unique. There were a few shared gods that seem to span many if not all of the islands, but each area tended to have their own versions of demigods. Maui, however, was a popular demigod and fairly well known.
He has a magic fish hook that can catch anything (including the sun, moon and sky) and uses it to the benefit of mankind, which plays well into the story. Moana uses the fact the he’s responsible for mankind’s suffering to make him want to help.The story is pretty straight forward, but lacks the ability to really pull you in. The ending leaves you feeling like it was wrapped up in haste, but does a decent job wrapping up the story. All in all it’s a cute story that sticks to the normal Disney morals of courage and overcoming adversity, but skips on stalker-ish love.
There is one aspect of the story that makes it unique among Disney movies, even more than the lack of a male counterpart for the princess to swoon over. It educates on foreign myth. Most American and European children will, more than likely, know nothing about Polynesian mythology(Hawaii might be a different story). Not only that, but it educates while entertaining – something that I prize highly in educational materials. I would recommend this movie for that reason alone.
The music in this movie is not normal for Disney either. The songs themselves possess a somewhat Polynesian flare, which gives them a unique sound and helps the movie stand apart from other Disney animations. They are also less concerned by the vocals for these songs(at least it seems so) than they have been in other movies. The characters aren’t suddenly possessed of a famous pop singers vocal abilities just because they decided to sing. I will say, though, that I have heard a lot of complaints about Dewayne Johnson’s singing in this movie. I was impressed. Who knew the guy could carry a tune? Is it the best vocals ever displayed by a Disney actor? No. But it is impressive nonetheless.
The music being so very different, in Moana, from what I’m used to seeing in Disney was refreshing. I like to hear the same characters I’ve been listening to the entire movie actually voice the songs. I also think it might help kids not worry quite so much about being perfect (small hope, but it’s there).
So how old should a child be to watch this movie? Any age is fine. Careful when the giant fire-demon comes on, but outside of that the movie is charming and suitable for all ages. My wife and I enjoyed watching it as much as the kid did. Maybe more. There are plenty of times that you will giggle at this movie, and maybe even relate to the characters. Either way it’s a light-hearted watch, that’s great for family movie night.
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