Te Fiti, the island goddess, has long been missing. After having her heart stone stolen by the demigod Maui, a darkness spread over the ocean and began to engulf island after island. On a distant island many years later, Moana and her people live a secluded and safe life living off of the land and the surrounding seas. While she is destined to become the chief after her father retires, she feels a calling coming from the ocean. Even when she is about to accept her role on the island, Gramma Tala refuses to let her forget about her dreams. As the darkness creeps onto the island, she sees no other way save her people other than venturing out to find Maui and restore the heart stone to its rightful place.
Disney Scores with Song: If there is something that Disney continues to do extremely well, it is putting together an amazing and emotional score. They were certainly helped by the presence of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Among the best of the songs is How Far I’ll Go. The movie version is actually better than the Alessia Cara’s version, as Auli’i Cravalho performs the song beautifully. The Hawaiian themes are strong and provide a beat that you want to get up and dance to (or at least bob your head). Even Dwayne Johnson’s You’re Welcome combines humor and a solid beat that truly highlights his personality.
Having Fun with Itself: Disney films are certainly known themes and stereotypes in the development of their stories, but they also know how to throw easter eggs and levity to their films. One great example was the Kakamora whose faceprint was in the design of Baymax or how the entire sequence represented the villains in Mad Max. Maui has a line where he pokes at Moana for being a princess, as she wears a “dress” and is the chief’s daughter. Even as the hero, Moana has an animal sidekick and requires a male hero to assist her in staving off the darkness. The easter egg at the end with Tamatoa was a nice kick as well.
Reversing the Story of the Little Mermaid: Interestingly enough, there is a fun reversal in how this movie is both similar to and the opposite of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. While Ariel was a mermaid trying to find her way onto dry land, Moana wanted to escape the island to get out onto the open sea. Both fathers between the two films struggled with letting their daughters out of their homes, but one story was about searching for love while the other was about searching for life.
Final Verdict: While I spoke very little about the actual details of the film above, I want to say that it was one of the best animated features of the past few years. It has heart and positive themes for viewers to take away from the experience. If you are not singing one of the songs when you walk out of the theater, I would be surprised.
Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5