“Moana” stars Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, and Alan Tudyk. Released on November 23, 2016, the film is about a high-spirited young woman who teams up with a demigod to save her people from annihilation.
The film is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who also directed other Disney animated films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Princess and the Frog. It is the 56th film in the Walt Disney Animation Studios library. Thanksgiving weekend has just begun, and do you know what that means? Yep, we’re getting another animated film from the minds of Disney. This latest feature is Clements and Musker’s first foray into CGI after directing several 2D animated classics, and with the amount of technology that Disney has today, they are looking at another classic in their hands. Disney’s last animated feature, Zootopia, has already won me over thanks to its creative animation and strong, relatable themes. Now it’s Moana’s turn to try to impress me. I won’t spoil the film too much, but I can tell you one thing. Disney impressed me once again.
One of the things I loved about the film was the voice performances. Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho did a fantastic job bringing the title character to life. With her sense of bravery and determination, Moana is bound to be the latest Disney princess who doesn’t get saved by a prince. Dwayne Johnson provides the voice of Maui, a demigod who helps Moana on her quest. He’s the type of character who’s not only a jerk during certain moments, but also lovable as well. I cannot imagine someone else voicing Maui. Johnson was absolutely perfect in that role. Plus, he can sing! How can you not pay money to hear ‘The Rock‘ sing? I am so crossing it off on my bucket list. The chemistry between Moana and Maui was very entertaining, heartwarming, and hilarious without being forced. Speaking of hilarious, Moana’s pet rooster, Heihei, serves as the comic relief who is way dumber than the other comic reliefs that Disney came up with. What made the comedy work for Heihei is his actions, not his words. The animation still remains as one of Disney’s greatest strengths. The ocean, the characters, Maui’s tattoos, the Realm of Monsters, the South Pacific culture, everything in this film was beautiful from top to bottom. The film is also a musical with some songs that could rival the songs from Frozen, especially “Let It Go”. It’s pretty hard to tell which song I liked the most, but if I have to choose, it would have to be Maui’s song, “You’re Welcome”. The other ones were catchy and thoughtful as well. The story in this film was cleverly told and well-paced despite a couple of problems. It’s not just about a quest to save the lives of innocent people, it’s also about finding one’s own identity. It’s a by-the-numbers quest film with a couple of predictable moments. Nothing for me to write home about. Plus, there’s this one scene that almost reminded me of Cast Away with Tom Hanks.
Overall, “Moana” is a gorgeous-looking quest film that has great animation, relatable characters, some catchy musical numbers, and its well-taught themes. While the story provided a couple of “quest-film” cliches, it had enough charm and depth to impress people of all ages, especially to those who are fans of animation. It doesn’t top Zootopia as my favorite animated film of 2016, but it came pretty close. If you’re a fan of the animated films that are made by Walt Disney Animation Studios, then you will definitely going to love their latest work.
PS: Before the film, Disney included a brand new animated short called “Inner Workings”, which showcases the internal struggle inside a man’s body. It was almost as good as “Piper” in terms of its animation and its clever storytelling.