Review of 'Moana'

moana.jpg Set in the islands of Polynesia we learn the story of shape-shifting demigod Maui (enthusiastically voiced by Dwayne Johnson) who steels the heart of the mother island Te Fiti but eventually loses it to the ocean after an encounter with lava demon Te Ka which causes an evil darkness to spread across the world. We meet the young girl Moana (voiced by Louise Bush), high-spirited daughter of chief Tui (voiced by Temuera Morrison) who is drawn to sail beyond the reef despite it being forbidden. Gramma Tala (voiced by Rachel House) can see this inner tension in Moana so reveals the secret that their people once travelled throughout the oceans and visited distant lands. Moana, unable to resist the call of the waters steals away, encountering Maui and changing her people's lives forever.

Filled with fantastic animation, great music, memorable characters and an amazing story, “Moana” is a great surprise that seems to have been generally overlooked. This is Disney at it's best, drawing heavily on traditional folk stories yet keeping it contemporary and relevant to viewers of today. Moana is a strong-willed young woman who is more than a match for the bigger than life characters she encounters as she struggles to come to terms with who she is and her purpose in life. Yes, there are the somewhat predictable humorous sidekicks, in this case the hilarious, somewhat dim rooster Heihei (voiced by Alan Tudyk) that accompanies her throughout her voyage and pig Pua, who are both very much toned down, never getting in the way of the plot but rather providing some brief asides taking away from the often heavy themes of the film. Maui is also a tremendous amount of fun: A demigod who has quite a large ego yet never takes things too seriously, until it counts providing another dramatic contrast to Moana's seriousness.

This a film that looks great, with superb computer generated imagery and characters that are not too cartoon-y. The set pieces are impeccably choreographed and look simply amazing, filling the screen and our ears with their immensity. At the same time, the film is not afraid to take it's time to tell a very touching and personal story, and not shirking from the more mundane realities of the characters – Moana does not have an easy go of it, facing opposition from pretty much everyone.

A wonderful looking and sounding animated film from the masters at Disney. Truly memorable and heart-affirming with a subtle, wonderful warmth that engages throughout without being condescending. Unlike many other Disney animated films I don't think this film is suitable for younger children but certainly 9-13 year olds should enjoy this film as it touches on the aspects of this time of life in understanding your place in the world. Of course, older kids will enjoy it too…

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-12-31

Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker

Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios,

Year: 2016

Length: 107 minutes

Genre: Animation

Other reviewed films by Ron Clements: