An adventurous teenager named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (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. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought, her own identity.
Just like the song from the film, I’ll go pretty far. This one has been out for awhile but for one reason or another, I haven’t had the chance to see it until now. I am aware of all acclaim it has been getting but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering it’s by Disney. What is interesting about this one is its setting of the South Pacific, somewhere that is rarely covered in animated films, let alone live action films (but I could be wrong about that). There was also the potential for catchy music, as a lot of Disney films have, with Lin-Manuel Miranda and others involved.
The princess/heroine in this film is a teen named Moana (Cravalho). She must sail further than she has ever known to try to save her island and her people. Along the way, she meets a larger than life demigod named Maui (Johnson). Over their journey, the two face a series of tough challenges and she learns more about herself and the person who she is meant to be. This was pretty much standard fare and predictable as far as animated children’s films are concerned but it isn’t so much about the destination but more about the journey.
The journey is only as engaging as the characters and the world the film has created. The animation here was beautiful, and was full of color and detail with the world and the characters. What was noteworthy out of that was the sea effects, as it also was a character in the film, and the animation involved in Maui’s tattoos as they had a great personality of their own. Characters were great as well. Moana was a young, likeable, perhaps naive, adventurous girl and her quest to discover herself was a compelling one as it involved exploring some of her culture which was illuminating. The idea of the film not being a love story and her not having a love interest was commendable. Maui was full of energy and charm but still possessed a vulnerable side.
It was their relationship and their chemistry which was the main driving force of the film. They were fun to watch together as they played very well off of each other, seeing their personalities clash. They would clash in entertaining exchanges as Maui would expose her supposed unpreparedness and inexperience. Over time, their relationship progressed as expected. The film even jokes about its kind of formulaic nature when Maui makes a joke about it later in the film.
The songs are not quite Frozen-level but they were still well done. Whether they will be memorable or not is yet to be determined but they definitely captured the mood and the emotion of the film. Both Cravalho and surprisingly Johnson are good singers with their highlights being Cravalho with How Far I’ll Go (which already has a Critics Choice nomination) and Johnson with You’re Welcome.
The voice acting was excellent with Cravalho, bringing charm to the role and capturing Moana’s age, inexperience, and self-doubt. Johnson was perfectly cast as Maui, bringing his own energy to the role in capturing his rather over the top nature. Again, it was their chemistry which really made this film work. Maui stole a lot of scenes but his closest threat was Moana’s dim-witted chicken named Heihei who was voiced by Alan Tudyk. Heihei consistently brought on laughs by the audience thanks to getting into hilarious situations.
Overall, this was a fun, beautiful, animated film with excellent performances and some good music.
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