Moana Movie Review
The Disney machine is back in motion once again with Moana, a movie that is pleasing enough given that it feels like something churned out by the Disney machine. Beautifully if unambitiously animated and featuring a strong, independent and non-white princess that makes for a great role model for young girls, Moana has everything it needs to be a Disney hit, but not enough to be a Disney classic.
In short, Moana is no Frozen, even though the story is more culturally unique: the film follows a Polynesian princess (voiced by Hawaiian actress Auli'i Cravalho) who leaves the sanctuary of her island to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and save her people.
Nobody’s going to walk away from Moana saying, “Wow, the animation in that movie really sets a new bar,” but the movie looks good anyway, with a vibrant palette and imaginative artwork.
As for the music, it’s merely okay. There are one or two slightly memorable numbers; “You’re Welcome” (sung by Johnson) is flighty and fun, while “How Far I’ll Go” serves as the headliner and most serious Oscar contender, even if it sounds like a rip-off of songs we’ve heard in other Disney cartoons. The rest of the songs, while pleasing in the moment, are pretty forgettable.
The rest of the movie is pretty pleasing in the moment, too, but doesn’t have a lot of lasting power. The movie lacks a true villain; many of the best Disney movies have a clear, memorable villain, and Moana certainly does not boast one, though there is some lava demon at the end that shows up to throw some fireballs for a minute or two. But that aside, Moana is a likable protagonist and her adventure feels organic and heartfelt. She gets herself into some entertaining situations, and her idiotic pet chicken is highly amusing.
Moana is entertaining, fun and a bit different from most Disney movies, even if it feels like individual pieces have been sucked in from other, better movies and remanufactured by the Disney machine. It’s not the best animated movie you’ll see all year, but it’s still a well-made, fast-paced adventure the entire family will enjoy.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.