by Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer
Disney and Pixar have dominated the animation world for decades, producing consistently unique and enjoyable animated films beloved by millions.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ has hit a hot streak as of late with smash hits like Frozen, Inside Out, and this year’s Zootopia, and follow up delivering what’s sure to be another hit with the studio’s latest release: Moana.
The film follows Moana, the daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe, who is chosen by the ocean to return the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess who has spent a thousand years without it, allowing a darkness to spread throughout the world. She sets out across the ocean to find the legendary demigod Maui and restore life to the islands to save her people.
It features the voice talents of Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, Auli’i Cravalho as Moana, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui.
Moana is overflowing with the same character, heart, and genuine charm that Disney has managed to grind down to a science. Each character has a distinct soul about them that connects you to each of them individually.
World superstar, and generally perfect specimen, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shines alongside Auli’I Cravalho as the lead voice talents on the film, oozing with chemistry and rapport. They play off each other brilliantly, allowing for a deep investment in their characters and the story as a whole.
It stands as one of the best and brightest examples of the plain truth often neglected at the cinema: simple stories are more fun. The story is extremely straightforward and simple, which allows for the world to be properly explored.
It is often the case that a film is bogged down with loads of side plots and twists that the world in which it takes doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
Simple stories allow for those environments to be played with, the best example in recent years being Mad Max: Fury Road. The barebones plot was what gave way to the big extravagant scenes that made the film memorable, and Moana achieves the same.
The music in Moana is stellar and earns its way into every “top Disney soundtracks” conversation from here on out, and threatens to sweep radio stations across the country in much the same fashion as Frozen.
The songs are catchy but still meaningful to the characters performing them. Lin Manuel-Miranda, composer known for his widely revered broadway musical Hamilton, wrote several songs for the film and his incredible talent is reflected in them.
With each release, Disney pushes the boundaries of computer animation with increasingly photorealistic backgrounds and elegant worlds.
A large portion of the film takes place on the open ocean and the visuals are breathtaking and lift the experience further than the story ever could.
When not in the middle of a song or gripping action-sequence, Moana sometimes falls into the clichés and tropes we’ve come to expect from Disney films.
She has an unintelligent pet chicken who at times feels like an afterthought thrown in to capitalize on a cheap gag, although it has a few hearty moments.
The humor in the film is generally tasteful and well-utilized, however at some points the humor tries just a hair too hard, while the scene suffers.
Exemplary animation, top-notch voice acting, music and all else aside, two things will undoubtedly lead the conversations on Moana for some time to come: the culture and the message.
Polynesian culture is rich and vastly unappreciated by cinema, and it’s refreshing to see a story explore different people and lands than what we’ve seen before. Moana delves into the tribal people’s lifestyles and it makes the story all the more engaging.
Frozen taught young girls that you don’t need a dashing prince to be the best that you can be, and Moana doubles down. The female lead carries the story with her drive and her passion, and Disney has made it clear that the age of the damsel in distress has ended.
Moana is tough, and the extra effort to instill confidence in young women through storytelling is remarkable and much appreciated.
Overall, the film is a guaranteed good time at the movies or on the couch, with heart bursting from every seam. Plus, The Rock is in it! I know for me at least, that right there is worth the price of the ticket.