Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Moana" Sails Into Familiar Oceans But Makes An Entertaining Splash

Put in an archetypal princess, a few musical numbers, and a morality story about finding your inner voice and you have yourself a traditional Disney Princess movie. Moana does fall under such familiarity yet regardless. is still a treat for the whole family.

Moana follows the titular heroine voiced by Au'li Carvalho who sets out to save her village that is being threatened by enviromental hazards despite concerns from her parents. On her journey, she meets the shapeshifting demigod Maui voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson who is initially reluctant yet accompanies Moana on her journey anyhow.

One thing that makes Moana such a treat to watch is the actress that voices her. A star is born in newcomer Au'li Carvalho breathes such life into Moana as she portrays her character's stubbornness as well as playing her as down to earth. Here's hoping that in the future, we get to see more of this young talent and not just hear her voice.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has proven himself as an action hero, a comedian, and now he can add voice actor to his resume as well as his amazing singing chops. He is aces as the charming yet arrogant demigod Maui and both he and Carvalho make such a dynamite duo.

A Disney movie wouldn't be complete without its music and Moana manages to deliver in that regard thanks to its songs co-written by Hamilton breakout Lin Manuel-Miranda. My favorite song has to be "How Far I'll Go" where Moana finally decides to go on her journey. Although the catchy "You're Welcome" sung by Maui isn't completely far behind. Despite it being a Disney Princess film, there are points where Moana has to point out that she's not a princess. Especially because there is no actual prince there to save her. But thankfully, the movie never goes overboard with that reminder.

I also want to point out how the film's environmental message is conveyed early on yet isn't completely ham-fisted. After it becomes introduced, the screenwriters let it become subtlely weaved into the storyline. That way, the story manages to capture different layers, making it a story about trusting your inner voice as well as a demonstration about environmental hazards.

Lastly, I want to applaud the film for not only having all the characters be Polynesian but also voiced by a predominantly Polynesian cast. I think it's wonderful they went that route because it allows those within that heritage to become the literal voice of their own stories.

Overall, Moana may fall under the same tropes of a Disney Princess movie but it still sails quite smoothly thanks to its "star is born" voice performance by Au'li Carvalho along with voice work by "The Rock," its catchy tunes, its stunning visuals, and its subtle enviromental message.

Grade: B+