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Movie Review: Moana
The latest Disney Animation, Moana, tells the story of a girl (Moana) who is the daughter of the village chief. Moana, who will one day be chief herself, is and always has been drawn to the ocean despite her fathers warnings of the danger it can bring. As the trees start to die and the fish start to leave, Moana learns she must find Maui (a Demi-god) and convince him to return "the heart" (a magical stone) which would restore the island and save the world.
- Unique - While this movie had all the beats of any other Disney Princess movie, there were enough unique things about it that kept it feeling fresh. I liked the presence of the ocean (you'll see what I mean) and I liked the goal of the movie. The plot wasn't as obvious as Disney movies I have seen in the past. Moana's journey was to find Maui, but once that happens, Moana's goals change. I really enjoyed the relationship between Moana and Maui as the two start out thinking little of each other. I also liked that once Moana begins her journey, we don't see much of her family or the village where she is from. Some people may not like this, but this movie is about Moana. Her family and villagers are not important passed setting up Moana's life.
- Songs - I do not think any song from this movie will catch on quite like "Let it Go" from Frozen. That being said, there were three songs that I thought were catchy. "You're Welcome" performed by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and "Shiny" performed by Jemaine Clement were two of the more memorable songs in the movie but "How Far I'll Go" performed by Auli'i Cravalho is easily this movie's top song. We have had a number of great animated movies come out in 2016, but Moana has the most catchy and memorable songs. With all the Marvel, Star Wars, and live action films, Disney proves that they still rule the animated movie genre.
- Maui - I really enjoyed how Maui was portrayed in this movie. He is a character that pretty much shaped the world as we know it, but that was a long, long time ago. Now his acts are long forgotten. I liked how the character had to struggle with this, I liked that the character was portrayed as being powerful but did not make him too powerful. I, again, really liked the relationship between Maui and Moana. Also, whenever you hear a non-voice actor is voicing a key role in an animated film, you worry. I however never worried about Dwayne Johnson, because he's basically animated in real life anyway. Whenever he speaks, he is such a larger than life presence so I knew he'd absolutely nail it, and I was out. Keep an eye out for Maui's eyebrow raise.
- Moana - Moana was an amazingly appropriate character for the modern world. What I mean by this, is that she can do pretty much anything on her own. Sure, she gets plenty of help in this movie, but she never asks for it and she never relies on it. She is a brave character without the movie beating you over the head with how brave she is. She's just brave and it is seen as completely normal for her to be that way. While I'm on the subject Moana is a girl, yes, but no comment or storyline point ever gives the impression that she can't or shouldn't do something because she's a girl. Her being a girl is just circumstantial, which I think is fantastic. We need way more stories like this where women, and people of minorities do things, or are present but with no mention or issue with them being "different". Anyway, before I digress too far, my last point on Moana herself is that she was animated as being fit. There was some muscle in her, which I thought was fantastic. She was shown as being fit as opposed to being a skinny twig and guess what, it was absolutely fine. Where body image is such an issue in young girls, this is a kids movie I think they need to see. All kids need to see it for the presentation of Moana alone.
- Villain is Misunderstood - This is a point that is brought up twice in the movie. Two characters that are supposedly bad and mean, but are really just misunderstood. While I liked that this happened the first time, I did not like it the second time at all. This was really my only issue with this movie. While I think it's great that kids see a movie showing that "bad guys" are just misunderstood and can be nice, sometimes people are just bad. You can't reason with it, you can't talk about your feelings together and suddenly the villain is nice and kind. It doesn't work like that so I don't think kids movies should be showing that talking about your feelings always works. The second misunderstood villain had a climax that was cheesy beyond belief.
- Typical Disney Princess Goals - This was a pretty minor issue and really only came up when I was trying hard to think of other Cons. Anyway during the setup of the movie, Moana has all the typical hopes and dreams as so many other Disney princesses. She wants to see the world beyond the city/town/village father demands she stays and demands that she shouldn't be curious. Father wants the daughter to live a tame, boring life at home and take on her expected role, daughter wants to begin an adventure. You've seen it before and, in Moana, you'll see it again but I promise that once Moana begins her adventure, the issue is never addressed again.
Disney does it again. This movie is a huge success in my eyes, it has everything that a Disney movie should and I think it is an important movie for modern kids to see and grow up with. I think adults will enjoy this movie and I think kids will love it. Go see this movie, go take the kids in your life to see this movie and watch out for Moana in the Oscars, as it is now a top contender for animation.