Directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall,
Starring by Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement,Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
Disney animation bring us the thrilling story of the Chieftain’s daughter who for all of her life has been obsessed with the Ocean, and it turns out that the Ocean is just as obsessed with her. A long time ago a demigod known as Maui stole the heart of the main island and was defeated by a demon. Since then a rot has been spreading from island to island and not one person knows where the heart is. When Moana’s island is next on the list for the rot to take over then it’s panic stations as the stubborn girl must defy her father and head out to sea. First she has to find Maui to help her.
The wonderful people at the Dublin office of Disney showed us some footage of Moana, really concept art, just over a year ago and told us some of her story. They have this wonderful way of being excited about their projects that is just infectious. On that day I should have been jumping up and down about Civil War and The Force Awakens, and I was, but when you see and hear them being excited about an animation that you know nothing about then it’s a whole different board game. I left that presentation and my mind put Moana to the top of the list of things I wanted to experience in the cinema. Today I experienced one of the most empowering stories that I’ve seen in a long time.
The story of the heart being stolen, and the Chieftain’s daughter defying her Father in order to save her people is far from being original, it’s just that the way that this film is told, the magical voice talents, and the soundtrack lift this from being a run of the mill Disney animation, to being a film that could rival Frozen. A highlight of the film in the voice talent is newcomer Auli’i Cravalho who manages to give a headstrong girl the voice of someone that is as much afraid to go on as she is afraid of stopping. But it’s Mr. Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, as Maui who steals the show. He sings folks, which is worth the price of admission alone. The animators have managed to capture the facial expressions of The Rock down to a great eyebrow, so he doesn’t have to talk that much for you to know it’s him.
The animation itself will leave you floored, and you can watch the background of the island scenes and see why Disney are the best in the business for these films. They fill the screen with action, like in Frozen, and this year’s Zootropolis (or Zootopia depending on where you live – reviewed here), which sets them high above their closest rivals. Disney want to give you a world, they want to make sure that you fall into this place and time and just lose yourself into the feeling of the film. No matter what you can say about the film or the tone, I don’t think you can deny that the production values of the animation, score, sound, voice talent, and feel of the film itself is anything less than perfect.
Is this as good as Frozen or Zootropolis? That’s slightly unfair to ask me. It’s a different being entirely, you can see what they are going for and they are successful in that endeavour. While the songs are not as crisp, and apart from The Rock ‘You’re Welcome!’ song, most are not as catchy as ‘Let it Go!’ I think we can all agree we’re thankful for that. The film gets somewhat dark in places that may scare the younger children, more than other Disney films in recent times, and as a now 41 year old man I have to tell you even I got a little scared so you should be prepared to have your hand grasped if bringing children and middle aged men to see this film. Sorry, Luke, for grabbing your hand!
Moana has flaws, I can’t deny that, but I’m going to be defiant like the amazing girl herself and tell you that this is one of the best animation films of the year for me. It just gave me all the feels that are lacking in some of the other animations, and I left the cinema with joy in my heart, which is never a bad thing.