“Moana”: A Visual and Emotional Delight

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“Moana” is directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, and Chris Williams, and stars Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, and Rachel House.  The movie is about the young girl of Moana who must search for the demigod Maui in order to save her island from a curse that threatens to take over.

Disney Animation Studios has been on a roll, with films like “Frozen”, “Big Hero 6”, and earlier this year with “Zootopia”, so, of course, I was excited to see if they could keep the ball rolling.  Also, this year has been excellent for animated films with the previously mentioned “Zootopia”, but also with “Finding Dory” and the stunningly unique “Kubo and the Two Strings”, so my hopes were very high coming in.

The Good

This is a stunningly gorgeous film, with the animation being some of the best I have seen this year.  The way each of the characters come to life is brilliant, but it is the lush landscapes along with the beautiful effects on the water that really `made me fall in love with the animation in this film.  The way the water ebbs and flows, as well as how it interacts with Moana is a feast for the eyes, and I could not get enough of it.

The voice performances were great across the board, especially with newcomer Auli’i Cravalho.  Cravalho is excellent in the lead role, with her character of Moana being beautifully developed from start to finish, as she is right there with the other Disney princesses, quite possibly being one of my favorites to date.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is also great as the demigod, Maui.  Johnson is likable in anything he ever does, and this character is certainly no different.  Maui is funny, witty, and incredibly enjoyable to watch, and the back and forth that he has with Moana is great banter, and the two characters definitely had great chemistry.

What separates “Moana” from most of the other Disney films to come out recently is its uses of actual history that is told by Hawaiian natives.  The way the film uses the Hawaiian culture is a breath of fresh air, and I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of magical abilities while also staying somewhat grounded in reality.  The emotions are also strong in many scenes, with feelings of happiness and perseverance being displayed regularly, and almost always being effective.

Some of the best moments of the film are the times shared between Moana and her grandmother, and these are the moments that held the most emotion, at least for me.  Moana and her grandmother have a unique bond that I felt from the beginning, and this bond was shown excellently in various scenes during the film.

The comedy in the film works just as well as the emotional elements, with a lot of the comedy coming from the voice work of Johnson and Cravalho.  The other comedic moments come from the chicken, which I feared was going to be really dumb, but instead the chicken was hysterical and was used correctly for the largest comedic effect.  There’s also a sequence that felt very similar to something that would come out of a “Mad Max” film, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The songs in this movie are incredibly catchy, with each of them having a special Hawaiian flare that I really enjoyed.  “How Far I’ll Go” and “We Know The Way” are the highlights on the soundtrack, but the entire movie has great songs throughout it, and I found each of the songs as lovely to listen to as the next.

The Bad

There were a few moments that were a little cheesy for me, personally, and there were a couple scenes that felt predictable because of the commonly used Disney formula.  No matter how unique in style and substance “Moana” often feels, the Disney formula is used pretty heavily for the plot, and it made some of the scenes that may have been meant to be a surprise have much less of an effect.

Conclusion

“Moana” is a brilliantly done film that shows once again just how great the work by Disney Animation Studios truly is.  The comedy and drama work hand in hand alongside well-done voice performances and absolutely stunning animation, all of which works well with the story that stays true to its Hawaiian roots.  While there may be some moments that feel very similar to Disney films before it, “Moana” moves far past these tropes to deliver a breathtaking film that is certainly enjoyable for all ages.

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Get tickets and showtimes for “Moana” here

What did you think of “Moana”?  Comment below with what you thought.


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