Moana is an animated Disney film directed by Rom Clemetns and Don Hall centred around an indigenous tribe of people who lived on the island of motonui’i in ancient Polynesia in the pacific, specifically we follow the young Moana, daughter of the chieftain who is being raised to take over the tribe. Though her natural curiosity leads her on a journey off the island, on a dangerous mission that was tasked for her to complete with the help of the shape shifting God Maui. The film stars Dwayne Johnson, Auli’li Cravlho, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison and Nichole Scherzinger.
Family, identity, your place in the world…. all of these are central themes often dealt with in Disney films to varying degrees and Moana is no exception, part coming of age story, it’s also a very identity focused story as Moana tries to find her place in the world along with her tribes, not being satisfied with the status quo and wanting to dig deeper, a trope often found with young protagonist in Disneys animated films. There’s a nice, jovial feel to the film as a whole, with some well done animation and good visuals, the visual style reminded me of Lilo and Stitch while the content and plot reminded me of The Little Mermaid (as well as the singing) – another sea faring story, so I think Moana sits somewhere in the middle.
That being said, the film also feels pretty different, with the story being set around a seafaring indigenous tribe for one and with there being no real romantic side to the story, which was interesting and actually a breath of fresh air (not that every animated Disney film has one), the plot conforms to Disneys tropes in a lot of ways but it’s also it’s own unique story. And we see this through the mythos and culture of Moanas tribe, which made for some interesting backstory for some of the characters and interesting world building, told very simply, it’s exposition done right, without necessarily beating you over the head with it, easy for kids to follow and straightforward for adults. The characters are a big driving force for the plot of course, Moana is spirited, independent and driven to see what’s out in the world, leading to conflict with her father, which feels all too real and disagreeing with your parents on your direction in life is something I’m sure we can probably all relate to, meanwhile Maui – enthusiastically voiced by Dwayne Johnson makes for a great wild card character.
Maui’s huge, full of energy, wisecracking and an animated embodiment of Dwayne Johnson if you will – but he’s interesting, has three dimensions to him and brings an interesting magical, fantastical element to the story, playing off Moana quite humorously in points. And of course the singing, while I’m not a fan of musical numbers/musicals in general, they provided nice segues between plot points I felt and they were used in important portions for the plot and characters, namely Moana. And in terms of the songs themselves, they’re a nice aspect of the overall film.
The plot is more or less what you came in expecting, a seafaring adventure with humour and Moana going on her own personal journey, growing and changing, like some of the other characters importantly do, showing character development and proper arcs for them, with the emotional core of the story, Moana wanting something different to what her father wants for her, some tropes are familiar but the relatable aspects are still there and along with some strong characters, help to make an engaging and fun story.
. Well done musical numbers, maybe not for everyone
. Has some well done voice acting
. Simple to follow plot, engaging, humorous in parts
. Story may feel a bit by the numbers