Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker
Released November 23, 2016
The Disney princess is an important fixture of film history. Decades ago, before gender equality was something spoken about in mainstream circles, this character was a beacon of hope, not always relegated to the supporting role of damsel in distress and usually capable of making her own decisions. In the past decade, Disney and Pixar have expanded their focuses to include a number of other cultures, transplanting the same story of one forward-thinking young person and adapting it based on the setting and the way that society functions there, which proves to be another positive experiment with “Moana.”
Moana is lives on the island of Motunui in ancient Polynesia. She is the daughter of respected chief Tui and heir to his role. She develops a strong love for the ocean as a child but is always told by her father that she should not venture out past the reef since everything they need is on the island. As she grows up and begins to assume her position of leadership, she clashes with her father about the best way to find more resources as they begin to dry up on land. Determined, Moana sets sail to find Maui, a demigod whose theft of a powerful stone years earlier is what she believes has led to the present circumstances, and resolved to make him fix his mistake and restore things to the way they should be.
From the moment that she is first introduced, Moana is a fearless, formidable protagonist. As a young child, she is “chosen” by the ocean as the one to set things back on course, and she responds to being gently swept out by a wave and then returned to shore with wonder and glee, and that excitement is transformed into a desire to sail the ocean freely, something that proves considerably more challenging with the sarcastic Maui who does everything in his power to run from his responsibility to right things. The two do make an entertaining team that, as time goes on and one would expect from this type of movie, gradually becomes much more sweetly endearing.
What sets this film apart from other Disney productions is that it roots itself in ancient Polynesian culture, casting a Hawaiian actress, Auli'i Cravalh, as the voice behind Moana. Cravalh is great, and she’s matched by the always fun Dwayne Johnson as Maui. This film’s commitment to bringing its focus to life with actors from South Pacific backgrounds is admirable, and its music from “Hamilton” superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa'i gives it a signature energy. Its specific story isn’t the most invigorating of Disney tales, but, by its end, it’s still easy to get behind the mood of this movie.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017