Moana

Movie Review: Moana (2016) *Lovely and Likable, But Not a Classic”

Moana

Moana is the 56th Disney animated film, and the latest from a studio that has seriously revived itself from near obsolescence at the hands of Pixar.  It has the creative teams behind Aladdin and Hamilton behind it, and the first Pacific Islander princess (well, daughter of a chieftan).  Does Moana stand in the company of Disney’s latest string of classics?  No, but despite some serious flaws, it still manages to be kind of impossible to dislike.
Moana

First, the good: Moana is the most visually stunning animation Disney has ever produced.  The sheer number of things interacting that were once thought impossible to computer animate: sand, hair, water…..come to think of it, sand, hair, and water comprise a pretty significant amount of the screen throughout the entire film.  Moana is a crash course in Polynesian mythology following the story of the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and the young girl chosen by the Ocean, Moana ( Auli’i Cravalho) to find him and undo his past mischief to save her island home.  Maui and Moana have to carry 80% of the film, and Disney is extremely fortunate that they’re both outstanding vocal actors, because the screenplay is weak and a lot of the humor falls flat (there’s a Twitter joke and a sentient tattoo….just saying).  But that they ARE so likable combined with the visual eye candy, carries the film through on good will.

Moana

So who knew The Rock could sing?  Is there anything Dwayne Johnson can’t do?  It doesn’t even matter that his song isn’t very good, because what else are the Oscars going to nominate in this category and I desperately now want to see The Rock singing at the Oscar ceremony.  The songs are actually one of the film’s biggest problems.  “How Far I’ll Go” and “We Are Away” are great, but even they fall into the trap the rest of the songs do: a whole lot of exposition rather than just being a killer song or a key character moment.  I don’t particularly want a five-minute song about coconuts in the daily life of the village from the forgettable supporting cast.  Many of the songs are just explanatory dialogue that’s being sung, and-to me-that’s one of the most irritating traps a musical can fall into.

Moana

I don’t want to sound like the film’s a bomb, because it’s far from that.  It genuinely is likable, but I don’t know that it has the repeat viewing value of the studio’s biggest hits.  This isn’t Frozen or The Little Mermaid or Sleeping Beauty or Aladdin.  I will give Disney credit for breaking their mold in two ways.  There is NO love story in this film.  None.  At all.  Also, Moana has a mother and a father, neither is a monster, and both live through the whole film (spoiler).  This flies in the face of the time-honored Disney family tradition of matricide (and the occasional patricide).  Heck, Big Hero 6 did both and threw in a fratricide!  PARENTS CAN LIVE!  Miracles can come true!  Moana is definitely worth seeing; I just don’t know if you’ll walk away ever wanting to revisit it.

7.75/10

7 thoughts on “Movie Review: Moana (2016) *Lovely and Likable, But Not a Classic””

  1. Musker and Clements deserve more recognition as directors. Actually, they deserve to be recognized, period, because right now they’re not. I guess when you work directly for Disney you get lost underneath the whole corporate machine, but they’re honestly two of the most influential filmmakers of modern times.

    I even love Treasure Planet. In fact it’s on my list of the top five or ten animated Disney films of all time. I don’t know if that’s because I’m weird, or the rest of the world tragically missed out (damn you, critics!)

    I’m sorry to hear that Moana isn’t all that, but honestly I wasn’t getting the greatest vibe from the trailers. I thought that the songs co-written by Miranda would be a bright spot, but maybe not. The man is lining up Hollywood projects left and right, and while I can’t blame him for capitalizing on his huge success while he’s on top of the world, he has to be careful not to spread himself too thin, or become too ubiquitous. It’s interesting that you say the songs contain so much exposition, because in a lot of ways Hammilton is a masterpiece of exposition through song. But Hammilton is about the first Treasury Secretary, and Moana is Moana.

    Anyway, with so many movies to get to I may decide to sacrifice a first-run viewing of this one. So on my end it’s good if it’s underwhelming. I have my Rogue One tickets in hand BTW. I’m not making a huge deal out of this one like I did with TFA. I’m not turning it into an event. If it’s everything we hope for, however, SW becomes an annual celebration with me, and everyone around me will just have to deal with it.

      1. I don’t know, and I want to!

        It’s really a masterpiece.

        I think the music box and the teacup are both from the blind hermit’s house in Bride of Frankenstein. The photograph on the wall is Mary Shelly. Love went into the commercial.

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