‘Moana’ is the 56th animated feature to come out of Walt Disney Animation Studios and the 2nd we’ve got this year after the critically acclaimed ‘Zootropolis’. This animation is also the first musical film Disney have given us since the insanely popular ‘Frozen’ from 2013. With a December release ‘Moana’ was the last film with the chance to steal 2016s animation crown from my personal favourite so far ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’.
The title for this new animation comes from the name of the central character, Moana Waialiki, she is the daughter of a village chief and has a longing to explore the world rather than simply stay on the island as per her fathers wishes. Moana is a strong character with many endearing and admirable qualities making her a brilliant individual to be the subject of this animation. Her voice is provided by Auli’i Cravalho, a young newcomer, she does very well in the role and gives her character a real authenticity. The cast also includes the likes of Alan Tudyk, Nicole Scherzinger and Jemaine Clement but the other main character, demigod Maui, is played by none other than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. His career has taken an upward turn in recent years and he’s quickly becoming an actor with massive pulling power to get audiences into cinemas, it was only a matter of time before he was recruited for a Disney film. He does really well here and as he plays the tattoo covered, confidence exuding but ultimately sensitive character you can’t help but see the similarities between actor and character. His seemingly never ending list of talents is added to in ‘Moana’ as he shows off his singing ability in an enjoyable number called, ‘You’re Welcome’. On the whole I thought the musical numbers were average, some songs seemed disjointed without a clear hook but the highlight is without a doubt ‘How Far I’ll Go’ with it’s irresistible sing along quality. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song became the new ‘Let It Go’.
As for the narrative it’s full of good messages about being who you want to be and how your past doesn’t define who you are. However, the film could maybe have been slightly more careful with showing how to act on these messages as when looked at separate from the all singing all dancing musical, Moana’s actions at times encourage quite a risky recklessness which could be interpreted by children dangerously. Nonetheless I feel the dangers to Moana are also given enough attention which does give a balance to this element meaning that it hopefully won’t be too much of an issue. Many individual elements of the narrative seemed to be borrowed from past Disney projects, I was constantly being reminded of previous films at different parts in the story. I’m not sure whether this was unoriginality from the writers or playful throw backs to what has come before it but all the same it’s not really a problem as for the most part the story plays out in a very watchable manner. One sequence sees our protagonists being assaulted upon by a fleet of coconut pirates in a very ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ fashion, easily the most entertaining and watchable section of the film. As well as the nods to other Disney movies the script for ‘Moana’ is delightfully self-aware making jokes at it’s own expense which really are appreciated. Something that has to be mentioned and which simply can’t be under-appreciated though is the staggeringly good animation. From individual grains of sand to such raw emotion on the faces of our characters Disney never fail to produce beautiful animations and ‘Moana’ is certainly no exception.
‘Moana’ does nothing but enhance the complete filmography of Walt Disney Studios Animations with it’s fun characters and very capable cast bringing to life the writers creations so vividly. The animation itself is impressive to no end and whilst the musical numbers aren’t all amazing there are definite highlights. The story is quite by the numbers for Disney and compared to their back catalogue maybe isn’t anything all that ground breaking. However, watched in isolation from all that has come before it there is no denying that ‘Moana’ is a great animation.
Finally, make sure you get to the cinema on time too as there is wonderful short film called ‘Inner Workings’ played before the film. It’s similar to Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ in some ways but was still a joy to watch.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite performance from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
Thanks for reading this review and please let me know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.