Possible spoilers ahead!
Ever since she was a child, Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) has yearned to sail beyond her home island of Motunui. But her father, Chief Tui Waialiki (Temuera Morrison), forbids it. He repeatedly tells Moana that everything she needs to be chief to their people is already on the island. But as Motunui’s natural resources start shrinking, and the local fish population disappears, Moana realizes that the solution may lie with her grandmother Tala’s (Rachel House) stories about the mother island, Te Fiti.
The legend says that nature shifted out of balance a thousand years ago when Te Fiti’s “heart” was stolen by the demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Witht he hopes to save her island and her people, Moana sets out to find the demigod and restore the heart of Te Fiti.
I know I’m a little late reviewing this movie, but stuff kept coming up and I wasn’t able to see in the theater. Although maybe part of me was avoiding “Moana” because I’ve never been a huge fan of Disney animated musical “formula,” but that’s a different story for another time. I finally decided to see “Moana” because the truth is: I can’t ignore anuthing starring the most electrifying man in sports-entertainment today. Or yesterday, since he rarely wrestles these days.
Anywho, “Moana” for the most part sticks with the Disney musical formula, and with the company’s princess angle. There are some predictable beats along the way, both in plot and character development.
But “Moana” also manages to put a creative twist on the usual shenanigans by poking fun at the musical aspect when Maui tells Moana that if she starts singing, he will puke. Furthermore, the songs in this movie tell part of the story, they are essential in moving the plot along. In other words, the characters are not just singing for sake of singing, there is a reason for it.
As for the princess stuff, I never felt like I was watching one of those movies. In all honesty, “Moana” was just plain fun. All the characters have well-rounded arcs, and each one gets songs and moments where they shine. Dwayne Johnson as Maui was typical Rock comedy, and I loved everything he did. But the film’s scene stealer, is Alan Tudyk as Moana’s dim-witted pet rooster Hei Hei.
I went into “Moana” with low expectations, because as I said earlier, I’m not a huge Disney animated musical fan. However, “Moana” is a well-crafted, funny, and heartfelt journey of discovery. One that puts a fresh spin on a decades old genre. Out of all the animated movies I’ve seen this decade, “Moana” is at the top of the list.
“Moana” final score: A