Moana (2016)

brooke Moana. How do I even begin to describe Moana? This movie moved me deeply in ways that I may eventually dive into on our other blog, but suffice it to say this movie made me cry. Multiple times. I loved Moana. Loved. It’s Disney at it’s best: the music is fun, the story is original, and the hero is worth cheering for.

casey Counterpoint: Moana is…good. Okay, I’m not completely in the tank for it, but I liked it!

brooke It’s all the things that make Disney movies great in a way that doesn’t feel exactly like every other princess movie in existence.

casey Damn Right. Step aside, Cinderella.

brooke Basic plot: Moana is all about a Polynesian girl named–you guessed it–Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), who is next in line to be chief of her village. The opening scene has her grandmother Gramma Tala (Rachel House) telling a young Moana and other village children the story of Te Fiti, a life giving island goddess whose heart, the source of her powers, was stolen by a mischievous demigod named Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). While the other children are scared by the stories the lava monster Te Kā unleashed by Maui’s theft, Moana looks on in awe, hungry for more of the story. The legend says that someone will have to find Te Fiti’s heart and cross the ocean with Maui to return the stolen relic and stop Te Kā’s spreading darkness, an adventure Moana undertakes as a teenager when the ocean chooses her to save her threatened island.

casey  First, she has to overcome her people’s suspicion of sailing beyond their island’s reef, and an obligatory overprotective father. Once things start moving and Moana locates Maiui, what struck me was how simple and streamlined the story is, with two archetypal but likable heroes who don’t necessarily trust each other forced to work together on an old fashioned heroic quest. Within that template, though, there are some neat contours.

brooke Moana is a Disney princess in a literal sense and her story has a lot of the same tone and flow as many other Disney movies, but the movie feels fresh and different in a way that I can’t really describe. The appearances of being just another Disney Princess movie are played for laughs. It switches up the damsel in distress tropes near the end, and it has a nod to Mad Max: Fury Road!

casey  And I know it’s 2016 and we’re not supposed to be impressed by computer animation, but the water effects are fantastic! But really, what I enjoyed most is the Pacific Island setting and the respect with which its mythology is treated. I’m in no position to judge if any of it is accurate, but compared to old classics like Aladdin you get a palpable sense that Disney is striving for more authenticity.

brooke I completely agree on the effects! They looks amazing. They’ve made it leaps and bounds since the water effects of The Incredibles.

casey Now, the less good: I didn’t love the music. It felt sort of skippable. Like, it’s filled with Lin Manuel Miranda’s clever wordplays, but there aren’t any big, unforgettable numbers like “Let It Go”. Your mileage may vary on that.

brooke There definitely wasn’t any one song that felt like the next “Let It Go” or “Part of Your World”, but I thought the music fit the movie well enough, and it was fun without being the obnoxious kind of catchy that gets stuck in your head forever. Fans of Hamilton will definitely feel Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hand in the songs, especially You’re Welcome, sung by Maui, and Shiny, sung by baddie Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement). Speaking of Hamilfans, Moana’s father Chief Tui’s singing parts are all done by Christopher Jackson!
I do wish we’d gotten a true anthem, but there’s a moment in a reprise of the song “How Far I’ll Go” where Moana shout-sings her own name in a really amazing positive affirmation that makes me tear up just thinking about it. That moment alone makes the whole movie feel worth the time it took them to make it.

casey I wasn’t necessarily blown away, but I’d watch it again, and it does enough new things that I think a lot of people will enjoy it. Maybe it’ll even become an icon for kids growing up.

brooke I have watched it a second time… and tbh I’ll probably see it a lot more times once it’s out on video.


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