It’s impossible not to love Moana; it’s so charming. I was stuck elbow to elbow with a theater positively stuffed with little kids at that special age where they cough and sneeze without covering their mouths and I still had a good time. I love the effort Walt Disney Animation put into its originality. It’s not just retelling Fairy Tales anymore, it’s showing a different kind of life with different stories and different practices. I loved the way Moana looked, especially the way the people moved when they danced. It was gorgeous.
Good gravy does Moana ever not want want to admit how much it wishes it were Frozen. Moana hits so many of the notes Frozen did – the catchy tunes, the inspirational tone, the animal comedic relief but the thing that really gave it away was how many references there were to the classic Disney films. Maui even teases Moana for being a princess and lists off the ways that she totally qualifies (and she can’t refute it). That’s known as ‘Lampshading’, folks, it works because we feel our suspicions are allayed just because they’re addressed, even if they’re not solved.
I notice that none of the men in this film wore a shirt. None. That’s got to be a first, especially for Disney. I also noticed that there were no chiselled abs and no romantic subplot. None. Coincidence? Even Zootopia had something, if not romance then at least …chemistry… between its main characters in subtext. Moana didn’t. Probably for the best, she might have still been too young, but if this had been a traditional princess film based on Brothers Grimm, the wedding would have been at least planned in the second act.
Moana was funny. That was a surprise, just how often and consistently funny it was throughout. That chicken cracked me up (along with ALL the kids). Actually the whole thing was written so well – the pacing was exact, the dialogue was great and the use of foreshadowing was so deft I almost didn’t notice it. A character would do something as a throwaway for a previous scene but then the same action would show up in a key moment and change the course of the scene. It was subtle and it was brilliant.
I don’t really have any criticism for Moana. Sure, some of the villagers sounded (to my untrained ear) like they had British accents, which would be odd for Polynesian chiefs. I did find it weird that Maui, a trickster god, didn’t actually act very tricky. Imagine if she’d rescued Bugs Bunny instead of Maui to complete her quest, how different that would have been? And I did find it odd that she was just going to be chief like it’s no big deal, like her father and his father and his father… (no mention of any mother in there). If she was the first female chief, wouldn’t that be at least cause to remark? If it sounds like I’m quibbling, that’s because I am. There really was nothing wrong with this film.
So is Moana worth watching? Yes I’d say so. And despite the near constant verbalised fears of the three-year-old to my right, it was not that scary. She was wrong every time. It’s an excellent family film, they skimped on nothing and that level of attention shows. I loved the Kakamora most of all – they were so cute! While I don’t think you’ll be hearing the songs on repeat like you did for ‘Let It Go”, it’s still going to be a hit.