Review: MOANA

by , under personal

This last weekend, I was fortunate enough to get to see Disney’s latest animated movie Moana – which is out in theaters today!

Tenacious teenager Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) recruits a demigod named Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) to help her become a master wayfinder and sail out on a daring mission to save her people. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker, produced by Osnat Shurer, and featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i, “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016.  ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

I wish I could have had this review up earlier – but my basic reaction to the movie was !!!!!

And I’m not sure that an entire post of !!!! would have been interpreted in the way I wanted it to.

Moana is the story of the young woman who is the daughter of the head of the village, who finds herself drawn to the ocean instead of the life that’s been laid out for her. She finds herself set out on an epic quest to track down Maui, the demi-god.

This is a beautiful movie from any angle. The art is phenomenal – Disney took great care to show Pacific Islanders in all their diversity, breaking free from their recent streak of extremely similar looking princesses. The story is sincere, and there will be many people happy to know that there isn’t a love story in sight of this story – not unless you could loving yourself or your family. And the music…

The music includes songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (the man behind In the Heights and Hamilton), as well as Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foaʻi. As you might expect, the music written by Miranda both fits what you expect from a Disney movie (sweeping ballads) and exceeds it with fun songs for Maui and one of the movie’s villains.

The cast is nearly entirely made of Pacific Islanders – with newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho as Moana, Dwayne Johnson as Maui, Temura Morrison as Moana’s father, Nicole Scherzinger as Moana’s mother, Rachel House as Moana’s grandmother, and Jermaine Clement as Tamatoa. Alan Tudyk is actually the only cast member who isn’t Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and he voices the chicken.

The movie is touching (I wish I’d brought tissues) and at times a little scary – with some scenes of danger out on open water, as well as fighting some pretty epic bad guys. But we were at a screening with small children and most seemed unaffected.

I definitely recommend that you check it out this weekend!

Update: There are a lot of criticisms from Pacific Islanders about the movie mixing and mashing up various cultures (because there are a lot of separate and distinct cultures). I didn’t go in expecting accuracy, which is why I didn’t mention it. (Heck, I see how movies expect that Hispanic cultures are homogenous) But if you look, you can find some excellent twitter threads on the subject, and it’s worth checking out.

I am still excited that there is a movie featuring a Pacific Islander cast that is positive, and will hopefully get more people interested in learning more. And that while not perfect, Moana is someone that little girls can be excited to see themselves in.

Disney, can we get a real Latina princess now? Elena’s awesome, but one on the big screen would be fabulous.

(Picture from Walt Disney Pictures)