MOANA (2016)

Genre: CG Animation
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Jermaine Clement, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins
Rating: PG
Released By: The Walt Disney Company 
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 24 November 2016

Synopsis: Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) meets the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.

Movie Review:

If you follow Dwayne Johnson on his Instagram account (@therock), you would know how the actor, producer and professional wrestler is a true blue entertainer. The House of Mouse has this 44 year old to thank, for he has been driving up quite a bit of hype for Disney’s 56th animated feature film.

Scroll through Johnson’s account and you will see the big guy introducing his co star Auli'i Cravalho (16 year old voices the titular character Moana), have hilarious sing alongs with Lin Manuel Miranda (the composer and rapper shot to fame after creating and starring in the Broadway Hamilton), demonstrating his Polynesian culture by performing a Hawaiian tribal dance and getting all excited at the film’s premiere event.   

With Disney’s massive marketing campaigns, there is no chance you would miss this movie directed by Ron Clements and John Musker (the duo is known for directing 1989’s The Little Mermaid and 1992’s Aladdin). Cynics will ask, is this 103 minute animated film any good?

We are happy to report that Disney has produced yet another family friendly adventure everyone will embrace.

The heroine is Moana, an energetic daughter of an overprotective chief in a long line of navigators. To save her tribe from destruction, she has to set sail to an island with the almighty demigod Maui(Johnson putting his hilarious persona to good use) to restore the heart of a goddess who created all the islands and life.

Before you start sniggling at the tried and tested Disney formula of a young girl who goes against all odds to save the day, and ultimately, find herself, be reminded that in this increasingly unfeeling world that is badly in need of social healing, such a feel good story is more than welcome.

Yes, this movie is like Frozen (2013) which takes place in the vast Pacific Oceans and the surrounding lush islands – characters break into songs (“How Far I’ll Go” is the new “Let It Go”), the cute snowman is replaced by a dumb but side splitting rooster named Heihei (the clucking is provided by Alan Tudyk), and as you’d expect from any Disney animation, there are impressive and sweeping scenes of oceans, nature and characters going on voyages. There also other memorable characters like Jemaine Clement’s coconut crab and an army of cute but villainous coconut pirates (yup, you read it right).

The music is made to sell albums – besides Miranda’s contribution, Mark Macina and Opetaia Foa’I are also roped in to create music fitting for the story. Johnson gets his own song “You’re Welcome”, while Clement’s “Shiny” is as psychedelic as the scene where the villain gets all showy about his, ahem, shiny appearance.

We can’t think of a reason why anyone wouldn’t enjoy this movie. The visuals are beautiful and awesome to look at (thanks to the imaginative minds of the animators), while the story about a heroine’s journey to save her family and find herself is heartfelt, funny and wholesome. Cravalho and Johnson are great as they provide voice work that is full of life.

Disney has proven yet again that it doesn’t need to be too clever to produce a crowd pleaser that will tug at viewers’ heartstrings and along the way, hit their funny bones. This is a crowd pleaser that everyone will enjoy from start to finish.  

Movie Rating:

(A heartfelt reminder why we love Disney’s animated films)

Review by John Li

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