Disney’s newest adventure set in Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse that was incurred by Demigod Maui reaches the home of an impetuous chief’s daughter, she answers the call of the ocean to seek out the Demigod and set things right once again. Brought to you by the directors of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and The Princess and the Frog; and voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger and Alan Tudyk.
Full disclosure, this film did not make my December watch list and I was expecting very little, which these days is quite the advantage when making a trip to the cinema. As should be expected with Disney films, as we open on the beautiful island and its contented people, we’re given something adorable and cheerful with a fantastically catchy song to back it up, “Where You Are” provided by the red hot talent of Lin-Manuel Miranda with the help of Opetaia Foa’i to give a voice and add a sound that suits the films setting; adding to that Moana’s pet pig Pua and it’s undeniably a brilliant and effective opening sequence. The film immediately has a strong sense of family, tradition and sheer positivity which is a joy to watch and becoming increasingly rare at the box office. The move away from traditional settings in Disney films is extremely refreshing and just adds to the films strength both visually and in relation to the story.
Despite that, the less surprising factor was including Dwayne Johnson, while his heritage and popularity did make him an appropriate choice for the role of Maui, the actual execution of that is, in one word, irritating. The macho, overconfidence that the character embodies is tolerable and humorous but adding in an actor with such a recognisable voice and one who struggles to sing, alongside Auli’i Cravalho whose singing voice is quite beautiful, makes him rather annoying to watch on screen. Realistically, that’s the weakest point the film has to offer, other than that the adventure moves at a good pace, as Moana goes against various challenges, learns along the way and meets more interesting characters, including Jemaine Clement’s epic crustacean. It’s also got a good sense of humour, with laughs here and there throughout the film, mostly at the expense of Moana’s pet chicken voiced by Alan Tudyk, HeiHei, who knew a pig and a chicken could add so much to a film? Disney apparently.
It provides a good message of respecting the old while embracing the new, being courageous and brave, and though it’s been repeated over and over, it demonstrates a strong female lead to be a role model for young girls. The music has been done wonderfully and adds a huge charisma and charm to the film with a sympathetic and relatable lead character, a good support cast and most importantly it’s simply fun to watch.