It’s fair to say I’m not the biggest Disney movie fan. Not one for singing or cloying sentimental films that pile on the meanings so much it feels like you’re being hit over the head with it. It’s what separates Disney films from the likes of Pixar, who are a lot subtler in their ways. With Moana though, have Disney found the right balance?
Moana (meaning ocean) is a young girl, voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, who is next in line to lead her people. An island people who, as her father keeps telling her, never leave the island as it provides everything they need. As the fish begin to run out and the coconuts begin to be die, Moana starts to believe her grandmothers tails about Maui. Maui, voiced by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (Fast & Furious 7, San Andreas) is a shape-shifting demi-god who has been marooned on an island for thousands of years after taking the heart of the goddess Ta Fiti. Since then a blackness has been slowly crossing the ocean killing Islands.
Moana, chosen by the ocean when she was a young girl, grabs a boat and a chicken and sets sail to find Maui and restore the heart back to Ta Fiti and save the world. Maui is initially having none of it until he gets his hook back which gives him his magical powers. And so, the threesome begin their journey.
First and foremost, this is a Disney film and so there are songs involved. Wondering what type of songs? Well, let me put it this way, Frozen, and the song, made Disney a lot of money so why would they change that winning formula? They don’t. The songs sound very much like Let It Go, in fact I’m betting someone somewhere will put the two together at some point.
The aforementioned chicken is a stroke of genius. It’s the light comedic relief in a movie that probably didn’t need it but I’m glad they kept it in. It’s silent apart from the odd cluck but it is very funny. The reason the movie could probably have done without the chicken is down to Johnson. He is perfect as Maui. Even in song he nails the character. He’s a demi-god who wants to be worshipped by the humans, that’s why he does what he does, it’s why he took the heart, thinking it would please them.
Disney even do something I haven’t seen Disney do in a film…I think ever. They take the piss out of themselves. Maui has a line “if you have a dress and an animal side-kick, you’re a princess”. It’s very true in most Disney films and it’s good to see them having fun at their own expense, something not every corporate behemoth will do. Even Jermaine Clement gets in on the act with “are you just trying to get me to talk about myself? Because if you are…I gladly will. In song form”.
The downsides? Well there aren’t many if I’m honest. It is suggested that there will be lots of monsters and gods to battle but in fact there’s only a bunch of pirate coconuts (seriously), which is brief and Tamatoa, voiced by Jermaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Concords), who’s a large crab that likes shiny things…I guess a crow wouldn’t have made sense under the ocean. And the final ‘end of level’ baddie too, but there’s a twist with that one.
Overall though the writers (there were eight of them!!) and directors (four of them!) have done a good job. The movie is short for a modern film at just over an hour and a half, the songs are few, the laughs are plenty, the cloying level is kept to low.
This could be one of the best Disney films I’ve seen in a long while and they left it wide open for a sequel or many, I’d expect many given a $50 million plus opening weekend in the US alone.