Moana – Movie Review

Set sail across the Pacific, as Walt Disney Animation Studios finds their newest princess in the plucky would-be explorer Moana. She’s on a mission, but does her adventure sink or float? Is it any good?YESI’m a big Disney animation fan (both regular Disney and Pixar), but I have to admit I didn’t have any expectations for this film. Not that I thought it’d be bad, it just didn’t stoke that “need to see” fire in me like Toy Story, Inside Out or even Wreck-It Ralph did. Colour me pleasantly surprised then when I sat down for Moana and was charmed from beginning to end.

It follows the familiar Disney movie thread – young and headstrong main character is drawn to the one thing her parents forbid but in order to save her people, she must betray her parents and adventure out on her own. Sidekicks are recruited, songs are sung, and ultimately lessons are learned for everyone involved. It’s a tale as old as time, from Beauty And The Beast to Little Mermaid and The Lion King, but having that familiarity of concept is a good starting point for Moana, and it affords the filmmakers the opportunity to twist the audience’s expectations.moana1In this version, the princess isn’t just a princess, she’ll one day be the chief of her tribe. There’s not a prince on a white steed (or boat) in sight, and the only thing that the (non-talking) animal sidekick does is try to off himself at every available opportunity. Like I said, twisting the formula.

The film really hits its stride when Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets Maui (Dwayne Johnson), a Demi-god with an ego to match his huge muscles and an array of interactive tattoos. He’s the reason Moana is in her predicament but is less than thrilled to be helping her. The interplay between Maui and Moana crackles and their burgeoning friendship is what makes Moana a real winner. The two leads play off each other really well, and it’s a constant game of one-upmanship which I enjoyed.moana_clip_yourewelcome

The songs, written by Broadway wunderkind Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) are catchy as hell, particularly Johnson’s You’re Welcome and the sequence with Jermaine Clement playing a giant crab singing the song Shiny, which sounds like a Flight of the Conchords b-side. The other standout element is the animation, which renders the ocean environments beautifully. Between this, The Good Dinosaur and Finding Dory, the House of Mouse has really upped their animation game.moana_heroAll in all, this is another winner from the non-Pixar side of Disney, and at this point they’re giving their much-loved brothers a run for their money. No matter if you have kids or not, you’re sure to have a good time.

MOANA sails into cinemas on Boxing Day.