Movie review: Set sail for an adventure with Moana

From the creators of Zootopia and Frozen, comes the next Disney musical adventure on discovery and finding yourself.

Moana is the fifty-sixth Disney animated feature film directed by Ron Clements and John Musker (who brought us The Little Mermaid and Aladdin). The film features music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote Hamilton: An American Musical), Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina. Moana tells the tale of a young Polynesian woman named Moana who feels like she’s being called to something out in the great unknown. Disney invites you to set sail and take an incredible journey beyond the reef.

Moana is the daughter to the chief in a long line of navigators of her tribe. The movie follows her on an epic and daring journey to save her people. Along the voyage, she meets the demigod, Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together, they sail across the open ocean as they encounter and battle 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.

The film opens with Gramma Tala as she tells the story of how the demigod, Maui, stole the heart from the island goddess, Te Fiti. Because of his actions, a lava monster, named Te Ka, drains fish from the ocean and swallows up one island after another until there is no one left. After the storytelling, we find Moana growing up as she is learning everything about life on the island. She finds herself drawn to the ocean, but every time she goes near it, her parents drag her back, away from the water. Gramma Tala encourages Moana to follow her heart and listen to the voice inside, to figure out who she really is. As Moana makes her rounds of the island, she notices that there have been fewer fish to catch every day and that the fruit has been drying up and dying. Gramma Tala takes Moana to a cavern where she can get the answers she’s been looking for. After she discovers the truth behind why her ancestors stopped voyaging, Gramma Tala gives Moana the heart of Te Fiti, which has been kept in Tala’s necklace, and sails off to find Maui and help return the heart of Te Fiti back to its rightful place.

Moana is fleshed out, given strengths and weaknesses. It completely delivers visually, character and story wise, and in almost any other category you can think off. It really grasps on identity and what it really means. Usually the things we do define us, but Moana teaches us to listen and follow our hearts and to not let others define who you are.

Moana does it simple and does it well. It’s also nice to see Disney continue to explore less recognizable cultures and introduce their rich ancestry and mythology to everyone in a respectful manner. With its story and music, Moana is culturally dedicated, well thought-out and simply beautiful to watch and enjoy. Like any other Disney movie, you will leave the theater with a warm feeling of hope for the world.

Moana features the voice talents of Auli’i Cravalho as Moana, Dwayne Johnson as Maui, Rachel House as Gramma Tala, Nicole Scherzinger as Sina, Temuera Morrison as Chief Tui, Jermaine Clement as Tamatoa, and Alan Tudyk as Heihei.

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