The mouse can do no wrong. So this is about a Chieftain’s daughter named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho). She’s got wanderlust, but her father doesn’t allow anybody to travel outside of the reef surrounding the island that they live on. It looks like she must break her father’s one rule to save the island, as there is a demigod (Dwayne Johnson) a ways away who needs convincing to do the right thing, which should breathe life into their dying island. The track record that Disney has is impeccable. They have had themselves quite a year, and you only need to check the line-up to see what I’m talking about: you’ve got this, Zootopia, Jungle Book, Civil War, Finding Dory and Doctor Strange. In fact, they are so good that the merely decent movies they’ve released have been all but forgotten, like The Finest Hours. Moana fits quite nicely in this mix, and I am having quite a lot of difficulty imagining anybody having a bad time with this movie.
And I haven’t even seen new Star Wars yet.
Now there is a whole lot to love about this movie. For one thing, it is a very contained film, and apart from one rogue, nudging Twitter gag, every single joke fits within this universe. This is absolutely necessary; these are people that keep to themselves, and it wouldn’t make a lick of sense if they were making pop culture references. The next thing I like about this is the fact that it tells you fairly early on that there is magic and mysticism in this story, and that you need to accept it as a character in the film. You’re dealing with the ocean that has a will of its own, a demigod that helped to create the world, and even spirits communicating with the living for a part in the story, but it sets up the parameters of this universe in a way so that it is easy to believe and understand. The next thing I love about this is all of the great songs that are showcased; the music to this movie was created by Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, and if you have an ear for his melodies, you will totally be able to pinpoint his signature songs. While Moana may not have something quite as insatiably marketable as “Let It Go,” it has hits in its own right, like “You’re Welcome,” and “How Far I’ll Go.” And yes, this has Dwayne Johnson singing in it, which further proves that the man can do anything he wants to and excel at it; he is quite arguably one of the most talented people alive today.
It’s not even remotely fair to the rest of us.
This is so vibrant and colorful I already have fond memories being migrated from temporary to permanent in my brain. The animation is gorgeous, and it has a style and an adventure story that is 100% its own. I was so into it, I wasn’t even taking notes for the majority of it, which is something I do for every single movie I review. The complaints that I have are minimal, like how the ending wraps up a bit on the tidy side, but honestly, I had such a good time with this that I can overlook nitpicks. I do have to say that this has been an absolutely a stellar year for animation, and there are other animated movies that I like even more than this one, but the more time that passes, the more I love this little movie. Is it worth your time? Absolutely, please go support another terrific Disney movie.
Moana (2016) ****1/2
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.