Just when you think Disney has the market cornered in the Princess game with diverse figures like Snow White, Mulan, Pocahontas and of course Cinderella; they throw a brand new strong lady in the mix representing the people of Polynesian descent in the new animated musical Moana. Starring the voice talents of Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli’i Carvalho who voices the title character, Moana is a Pacific folk-lore tale about a young girl who is meant to rule her island, but dreams of rowing past the reef and sailing the ocean blue is all she thinks about. Her father the king however, is perfectly content keeping Moana and his people safely on the land living a life of solitude away from the evils that lurk in the water surrounding them. Of course in typical Disney formula, Moana defies her father when darkness begins to take over the island and sets out to sea looking for an ancient demigod named Maui (Johnson) who can hopefully make things right.
Disney is not exactly recreating the wheel with the themes in Moana. A daughter defying her parents’ expectations is nothing new in the Princess Culture the Mouse created. The motives in Moana may be a little generic, but the ancient island myths freshen up the film and gives the audience something more than just the idea of running away from your destiny only to find it right where you started. The voice cast also helps lift the film as well with 16-year-old rookie voice talent Auli’i Carvalho bringing a sweetness and sense of hope to Moana. The young actress can also belt out some tunes as the island princess. Moana is full of new music and songs that may not be instant classics, but will still put a smile on your face. Even The Rock gets his chance to croon the audience as the shape shifter Maui and does a pretty good job at it.
Moana may sit just above average as far as story and song go, but where the film takes it to another level is its beauty. Moana may be the most beautiful movie Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced to date. The film gives Disney’s other company Pixar a run for its money with all the gorgeous island scenery on display in Moana. The animated ocean looks so real that you just want to take your shoes off and dip your feet in the crystal blue water. Some of the scenic views in Moana are breathtaking and will have you feeling you’re right out on the water sailing with Moana and Maui as they look to make things right in the world.
There are moments in Moana where you just can’t take your eyes off the screen that is full of vibrant colors and seems so alive. The film is also a grand spectacle during a few action scenes that will have the boys in the crowd entertained as Johnson brings some humor and bravado to the grumpy Maui who doesn’t seem to care about anything, but himself at first. As you can imagine that changes in true Disney fashion. The substance in Moana may lack in content at times, but is made up for in a big way with the immaculate look of the film.
Overall, I give Moana 3 out of 4 gorgeous stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell