Back in the early 1990’s, I was privileged to grow up with some of Disney’s greatest animated movies, and looking back on that time, I was never really aware of the great Golden Age of Disney animation I was living in until years later. We’’, I’m going to say it now before it’s too late, we are in a new Golden Age of Disney animation, and their latest 2016 movie “Moana” is an outstanding entry to their collective works. This is a Disney movie that stays true to its roots, while adding a big splash of originality and puts twists on common conventions.
It’s the story of an island princess named “Moana” who sets sail for an adventure across the sea. Her goal is to find a mystic demy God named Moui who was responsible for angering a Goddess and setting the Ocean world out of balance. Through her courage and heart of gold, she puts the self centered demy God on the path of redemption and aim to bring balance back to the ocean by calming the angered Sea Goddess. On their quest they sail to various mystical islands, battle pirates, a giant crab monster and come across various other oddities. I’ll admit, the movie is very predictable, and the formula is familiar, but it’s all done so well. I was consistently engaged in these characters, and their journey is extremely entertaining to experience. The ocean world of “Moana” is one of the most original and unique I’ve ever seen, and the setting is definitely one of the movies highlights. The animation of course is outstanding, it’s detailed and extremely colorful.
The voice cast phenomenal, especially new comer Auli’I Cravalho who supplies the voice of our lead princess. She’s definitely a new talent to watch out for, and brings the character of Moana to life with a breathtaking voice, lots of passion and charm. Dwayne Jonson is also very good and extremely charismatic as the self centered Demy God Moui, who’s one of those jerk characters you love to hate. The cute comedic side characters also provide some laughs, and the sinister monsters come in a nice variety, with unique designs, and even their own charm. The princess Moana is yet another fantastic character and one of the best to come from the studio’s roster of princesses. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something about this character that feels very special, and more appealing than other Disney princesses. For one, she doesn’t fall victim to as many Princess tropes, and there’s a very funny joke aimed at her supposed Princess title.
Now while the story and formula is predictable, there are still a lot of surprises that I really didn’t see coming. For example, there’s a character death that’s very unconventional for Disney, and it was pulled off beautifully. The moral of the movie is also meaningful without shoving the message down your throat . The music of course is terrific, although some of the segues were a little ruff. All in all, I loved this film, and can’t wait to see it again. It’s great to see a Disney Princess from a different ethnicity, and the films magical ocean world is one that I loved being submersed in. To be honest, I’d but “Moana” among Disney’s best Princess offerings, and considering how big their lineup is, that’s saying something.
I give “Moana” 4 ½ stars out of 5.