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  • Moana | Review

    By | November 23, 2016


    Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall (co-director), Chris Williams (co-director)

    Writers: Jared Bush, Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell

    Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, Oscar Knightley

    Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is a spirited preteen who happens to be the heir to her father’s remote South Pacific island chiefdom. Technically, you might be able to call her a princess but she’d prefer that you don’t. She feels restless on her little island and would love to set out on an adventure but her dad (Temuera Morrison) has issued a decree forbidding all islanders from venturing out past the surrounding reef. But eventually, with the encouragement of her grandmother she sets sail with a rooster for a traveling companion.

    Her quest is to head out to sea and return a trinket stolen from the island goddess Te Fiti by the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who is in the midst of a slump, having lost his magical fishhook and therefore much of his demigod powers. The narrative is fairly predictable Disney material brought to us by veteran Disney directors John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little MermaidAladdinHercules) but Dwayne Johnson’s comedic timing is sharp, that rooster is pretty funny and it’s refreshing to see a strong female lead who is not assigned a mandatory love interest.

    The film dawdles a bit while Moana is out to sea but between the comedic elements and fine animation, it’s never less than a pleasure to behold. The film’s computer animation is striking, and serves almost as a character of its own in the film, and admirably in service of accurately capturing the natural beauty and culture of Polynesia. But still, no matter how well executed, nature can’t compete with the kind of personality present in so many classic Disney characters and so the introduction of Maui provides a welcome change of pace.

    Another notable feature of the film is the soundtrack, with Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame having co-wrote the original songs for the film with composer Mark Mancina. Another collaborator is Samoa-born Opetaia Foa’i, whose influence on the soundtrack might be the greatest of the three. The music may not be fully Hamiltonian but is definitely a key component to the film and don’t be surprised if the songs are soon being sung by your kids.

    Rating: 8/10

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