MOANA – A Review by John Strange

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MOANA
 
By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
 
Moana is the story of a young Chief’s daughter on a South Pacific island who has always wanted to explore.  Young Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho) has a special relationship with the ocean that no one, especially her father, Chief Tui (voiced by Temuera Morrison), know about.  The Chief is paranoid about allowing any of the tribe crossing the reef that surrounds their island, fearing that any who cross it will be killed by the huge waves.
 
The kids of the island are regaled by Gramma Tala (voiced by Rachel House) with stories of the monsters and gods of their people.  Moana’s father is not happy with the stories scaring the kids.  One of those stories is about how the demigod, Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) stole the “Heart of Te Fiti”.  His theft did not go unpunished.  During his escape, he is defeated by a beast of lava and loses both his magic fishhook and the heart.  He disappears, never to be seen again.
 
Moana is chosen by the ocean to find Maui and reunite the heart.  Getting away from the island is harrowing for the young girl and Hei Hei, her pet rooster but it doesn’t slow her down.  Despite his lack of personal growth, the little princess and the demigod battle their way across the ocean and through the realm of monsters facing threat after threat.  We see Moana’s confidence slowly emerge and blossom.  Maui, well the demigod is what he is but eventually he does exhibit some spiritual growth.
 
As with all stories this epic, the monsters and villains have to be a step above the average.  In Moana, they range from the tiny but vicious Kakamora with their coconut helmet/facemasks to a gigantic evil singing crab named Tamatoa (voiced by Jemaine Clement).
 
The group (as all Disney heroes do) eventually saves the day. How they do it is why we love to watch these movies.  This film is visually gorgeous.  The CG-animation is up there with Disney’s best animation ever.  The songs by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are excellent as is the score by Mancina. 
 
My only complaint is that the story may be a bit above the average child.  It is very complicated and violent.  I think the kids will like the film; the girls, because they see themselves in Moana, and the boys because of the bouts of violence.
 
And through it all, I just have to say I love that rooster!  Hei Hei is a hoot!
 
 
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
 
Cast: Auli‘i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk
 
MPAA Rating: PG (for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements)
 
Selig Rating: 4 Stars
 
Runtime: 103 Min.
 
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