Directors:Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 103 Minutes
Unless your heart is made of stone or you simply hate music, it’s more likely than not that you will leave the theater humming at least one of the unbelievably catchy tunes from Disney’s Moana, courtesy of Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina, Somoan artist Opetaia Foa’i and the great Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame.
The story of a Polynesian girl who sets out on a journey to save her people is funny, emotional, suspenseful and totally satisfying, but I’d be remiss if I did not acknowledge the brilliant visual elements and musical stylings. There’s something for everyone, too. Solemn ballads not your thing? Then take a listen to “We Know The Way,” with its intense drum beats and big choral swells, or “Shiny,” the sassy villain song sung by the unequaled Jemaine Clement.
The storytellers break away from traditional gender roles but do not do so in an overly evident way. Moana is not pining for her prince; she is pining for a chance to navigate the seas. When her traveling companion, the great demi-god Maui, attempts to flee a seemingly unwinnable fight, Moana charges into battle without hesitation.
It’s a great message for young girls; you do not need a male protector to stand your ground nor a love interest to inspire a sense of purpose. It’s a great message for young boys too; girls can be talented and accomplished, strong and driven, and they can desire more from life than just finding a husband. They can also be imperfect. When Moana needs to acquire a new skill, she admits so and then confidently goes about trying to learn.
Voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, Moana is likeable and endearing character, going head to head with Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (in a role he seems born to portray). Johnson, is energetic, sarcastic, playful and scheming as the suave and magical Maui and nearly steals the show. His tune “You’re Welcome” serves as both a helpful bit of exposition and an introduction to the character and, lyrically speaking, has Miranda written all over it.
The animation is a sight to behold as well. The artists’ attention to detail bring the characters and their tropical “sets” alive, from the minor gags involving a particularly dim-witted chicken to the major action set pieces. In fact, it may also be worth it just to sit through the end credits in order to see the the garb and greenery (and all their perfect imperfections) blown up on the big screen.
Disney has done a great job telling the story of its little wayfinder, and I would strongly recommend trying to catch this one in the theater if you can.