Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Moana (2016)

The latest movie from Walt Disney Animation Studios is targeted at younger audience and tries to position itself in a rather untapped setting/culture. The results are mixed!

The big names behind the movie are Ron Clements and John Musker (the directors who were also responsible for classics like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (voice of Maui), and Lin Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame, who wrote the songs).

Don't expect Moana to enter the stable of Disney classics such as The Little Mermaid or Aladdin, or even Frozen. I'm not fully sold on the message of the movie either. It tells the story of a young girl whose father is the chief of the tribe, and she is next in line to be the chief. Moana feels that the ocean is calling her. The father/chief, though, is against the idea since he himself lost people chasing that dream. Considering this background, the father's reason seemed rational to me. But the film tells audience to defy the authority, even when they have good reasons.

Other than the initial motivation for embarking on the adventure, the movie suffers from a weak villain, or lack thereof. I wasn't sure who the antagonist was until the last 10 minutes of the movie, and then I found out that the villain was not actually a villain!

As for entertainment value, Moana suffers in the first third, but then after the introduction of Maui (voiced by The Rock), it changes significantly! The Rock delivers in spades, and he deserves all the praise that he gets these days! As for the other big player (Lin Manuel Miranda) I only liked two of the songs that he wrote - one sang by Maui, and the other one by the crab! The rest of the songs were some of the weakest that you could find in the Disney animation catalogue!

So, if you are going to see the movie with a young person, it wouldn't be the worst experience! But more adult fans of animation should perhaps skip this one! The saving grace of the movie is the visuals. Well, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and a Disney cartoon set in Hawaii should also look beautiful. Overall, I'd give Moana a 6/10.

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