Moana: Review


Few films have been released in 2016 that are quite as eye-widening as the vibrant and brightly coloured Moana, Disney’s latest animation which introduces us to a strong female hero that’s worthy of your child’s affections. Passing the Bechdel test with flying colours, the studio should be commended for their continued efforts in breaking away from the princess stereotypes; but as well as being progressive, the film features plenty of catchy musical numbers and inventive set-pieces to make it incredibly enjoyable as a piece of entertainment.

An early Christmas present for the entire family, Moana is another hit for the studio that at one point felt like it was faltering. Since 2010’s Tangled however, the talent at the company – including Pixar’s own John Lasseter in an executive producer capacity – have been taking big steps in the stories and characters that they’ve decided to focus on, slowly but surely moving away from fairy tales in which a lovestruck woman is saved by a brave prince. Here, Moana represents their biggest leap forward, with the filmmakers choosing not to just focus on a young woman who is independent, strong-willed and brave, but to bring diversity in the form of a story steeped in Polynesian culture and myth.

Set in Ancient Polynesia, the demigod Maui (voiced brilliantly by Dwayne Johnson) unwittingly unleashes a curse which eventually reaches the island on which Moana is being begrudgingly taught to lead her tribe by her father and Chieftain. As the village’s crops begin to turn to ash and all the fish disappear, Moana, a woman whose love for the ocean and adventure far outweighs her desire to lead, finds it the perfect opportunity to leave her island in search for some answers. Guided by her grandmother, she is told that she must cross the sea, find Maui and lead him to a fabled island where he must return a stolen jewel.

Whilst the film’s opening boasts a number of memorable songs, it isn’t until Moana sets out on her adventure with Maui that things really begin to come together. Aided in their quest by a skinny, scene-stealing chicken (nicknamed Drumstick by Maui) and the ocean itself, the story features a charming cast of characters that are impossible not to love. The chemistry between each of them, especially between Moana and Maui, is so well written that you believe in them and their quest to the point where you may find yourself surprisingly emotional come the film’s moving ending – even if you are a twenty-eight year old man such as myself.

There’s a certain air of the classic Disney films from the 1990’s – arguably the studio’s most successful era in which each release was just as good as the last one – that surrounds their latest instalment; only modern day technology affords this more truly exquisite imagery than could have been imagined back then. Moana is tremendously beautiful to watch, and just as colourful are the characters that feature within the story. Combined, the music, the visuals and that familiar sense of Disney-style humour that makes you feel all warm inside means that this is top-tier stuff that I’m sure will be enjoyed for years to come.

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