Monday, November 28, 2016

[Review] Moana

She's not a princess. She's MOANA.

Disney's latest surefire hit is a dazzling South Pacific adventure that splashes and beams with jubilance. Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) is a wide-eyed independent soul with her heart toward the sea, despite her Chief father's insistence on keeping her rooted at shore. But when an ancient darkness threatens to destroy their island's livelihood, Moana secretly sets out to find a shape-shifting demigod named Maui (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), and the two must sail across the ocean in order to return a mystical relic to a powerful island goddess, in hopes of breaking the curse.

The journey is exciting, dangerous, and memorable, as Moana and Maui encounter Kakamora pirates, cantankerous sea monsters, and a hot-headed lava goddess. It's all so visually gorgeous: The tropically lush, green and mountainous island scenery... The bioluminescent coral reefs... The splendid sparkle of the clear, starry skies... Maui's creatively kinetic tribal tattoos... Then there's the glistening blue ocean--in addition to being wonderfully animated, the endless body of water is also rendered as its own character, serving both as a majestic guide and an ominous and stormy force.

And of course there's a lot of playful humor. A guaranteed fan-favorite is a loopy stowaway rooster named Heihei, who seems to be a distant relative of Becky from this year's Finding Dory. The bickering, head-to-head dynamic between Moana and Maui is quite a treat as well. They roast each other, they bounce off of each other, they learn from each other, and they complain about each other. At one point Maui utters something like, "You're not gonna start singing are you?" ...Which brings me to the film's catchy soundtrack. Opetaia Foa'i and Lin-Manuel "Hamilton" Miranda (he's everywhere!) blend traditional Hawaiian melodies with Disney's trademark of ear-wormy pop sing-alongs and power ballads to boost the film's buoyancy and forgivably on-the-nose themes. The main theme song "How Far I'll Go" is pretty much destined to become the new "Let It Go", so enjoy it now before it gets played to death. (Interesting how both tracks embrace the word "Go".)

There are a few scary moments to contrast the sunny vibes, but for the most part, this is a really light and breezy film. Maybe too light and breezy for some audiences' preferences. However, it's without a doubt a genuinely uplifting and applause-worthy tale of bravery and forming your own path. It also enthusiastically explores and celebrates a vibrant Polynesian culture and mythology that's not often seen like this on the big screen.

Moana will warm your body, your spirit, and your heart.

* 9/10 *

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  1. Love your review! Looking forward to seeing it.

  2. I enjoyed the film as well. I was worried some moments might be scary for my son but he didn't say anything. I really like the art in the final minutes and after the death.