OP-ROB RATING: ALL-STAR
Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) is the daughter of Chief Tui Waialiki (Temuera Morrison) of the Island Motunui. Like every other citizen on the island, she has a job. For Moana, this job is to stay on the island and rule the people there. However, as is evident from the very first scene in Disney’s new animation adventure “Moana”, this girl is destined for the sea. Set in a mythic Polynesian land, “Moana” is the story of this daring girl. A succession of introductory scenes and catchy songs set the stage for the film. In years past, a shape-shifting demigod by the name of Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) had the nerve to steal the life-giving heart of the Goddess Te Fiti. Maui’s rash decision awakened various mystical beasts across the islands and below the sea, not to mention sapping the goddess of her life-giving power and unleashing a destructive force across the entire land. This destructive force has suddenly reached Moana’s home of Motunui, where they have run out of fish and vegetation has started to crumble. To save her island Moana is tasked by the Ocean itself to find Maui, and deliver him across the ocean to return the heart of Te Fiti.
My favorite scene in “Moana” is unequivocally her discovery of Maui. After washing up on a tiny dessert island, Moana is quickly introduced to the loud, egotistical, yet ultimately charming Maui. He emerges dressed only in a leafy skirt, tattooed from the neck down with a head of hair that would make Troy Polamalu proud. While Moana tries to explain her quest to the mystical demigod, he ignores her and breaks into song, “Okay, okay. I see what’s happening, yeah. You’re face to face with greatness and it’s strange… I know it’s a lot, the hair, the bod! When you’re staring at a demigod. What can I say except, you’re welcome!” Maui goes on and on about how great he is and all of the prizes he won for humanity, like the breeze and coconuts and fire and various other natural phenomena. As he sings, a “mini-Maui” tattoo dances all around his body, each piece of artwork depicting a great accomplishment. This scene, among others, is so full of color and energy it’s impossible to turn away.
Aside from the quality music and plot we have come to expect from Disney animation, “Moana” features a powerful female lead voiced by Auli'i Cravalho. The quest that Moana undertakes is one of great danger, and there are several points where she encounters the kind adversity most animation films would shy away from. Throughout the film she overcomes obstacles through unconventional intellect, wit, and fearlessness. As a kid, I had the joy of watching a lot of male heroes like Hogarth in “The Iron Giant” and Buzz and Woody in “Toy Story”, amongst many others. Not that those films don’t inspire all children, but it is special to have heroes you can relate to on a base level just as a boy or a girl. Moana joins a growing lineup of dynamic animated female leads that have emerged in theaters over the past few years.
In a not-too-short, not-too-long 107 minutes Moana and Maui are led on a thrilling journey that involves run-ins with monsters, moments of self-doubt, and plenty of music. The imagery throughout the film is crisp, beautiful, and infused with Polynesian folklore. By all means, “Moana” is a breezy oceanic voyage that should fill the sails of anyone in need of a lift this winter season.