Directors: Ron Clement, Don Hall, John Musker and Chris Williams
Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jermain Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
Written by: Jared Bush, (story) Ron Clement, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kendell and Jordan Kendell
Running Time: 107 mins
Release date: 2nd December 2016
It’s not been a top year for animation in mainstream cinema. You’ve either had to look away from your local multiplex to find a film that wasn’t throwing up an over-bright confectionary of sugar that were incoherent and messy (I’m talking about you Storks and Trolls!) or you had to wait for the next Disney film. They have hit the mark every single time with Zootropolis and Finding Dory. Now comes Moana, which is quite possibly their finest hour this year. A bright and breezy mixture of excitement, humour, musical numbers and a strong female main character.
Ancient Polynesia and a curse are destroying the island with darkness. Moana, the daughter of an Island Chief, has been chosen by the sea to head off beyond the reef to find a missing demi-god, Maui, a shape-shifter, and the only one who can stop the curse by returning the Te Fiti heart to its rightful place.
Based on Polynesian mythology, the film, directed by four of Disney’s finest, have managed to capture the splendour of the South Sea islands with stunning beauty. There isn’t an inch of this film that doesn’t look amazing. From the blueness of the ocean and the life below to the golden grains of sands, this isn’t a film that has been thrown together in the vain hope that something will stick, like most of the other major studios do when they are making animated features. This is a work of art.
You would have thought that spending all their time on the fine details to make this a visual treat was enough. Not for the Disney boys and girls. The story is terrific. A tale of a stubborn young girl who takes on everything the ocean throws at her as well as an egotistical demi-God, covered in tattoos that come to life. This pushes the boundaries of the female protagonist further than Disney has ever done before. Gone is the Princess persona. Gone is the handsome prince to save the day. In fact, there is a line in the film where Maui says she has an animal as a side-kick, then she must be a Princess. With all the arguments recently about female empowerment in movies, it’s really refreshing to see an animation taking the lead.
This all might sound a little heavy for family viewing. You forget this is Disney. There’s plenty for the younger audience to enjoy, from the jolly hummable tunes to the slapstick comedy that never seems immature, to a hilarious chicken called Ha Ha, looking like a bird version of Marty Feldman.
What also works is the double act of voice talents of Auli’i Cravalho as the feisty title character and the film’s biggest surprise, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui, a character who thinks he is the greatest demi-God alive, yet is always self-deprecating. The other surprise is Johnson’s singing. Yes, The Rock can sing and he sounds good.
Moana ticks all the boxes for a thoroughly entertaining, beautifully stunning piece of family cinema. Forget brightly coloured big haired creatures who can’t stop the feelings, this is the animated film to watch. Watch it in wonder and awe and come out feeling totally alive.