Movie Review: Disney’s “Moana”

moanaposterThis week we were given the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of Disney’s newest film “Moana” which opens to the general public on 23 November and has been rated PG.

We give it is solid 4.75 out of 5 stars! (Men, women and boys alike!)

Moana is an adventurous 16-year-old daughter of the chief of Motunui who is brave, determined, compassionate and super smart. She is being trained by her family to be the next leader of her people and even she says she is not a “princess”. She has a true connection to the ocean and has felt drawn to the ocean her whole life which is a problem because her father has forbidden his people from venturing past the reef that surrounds their island as he has seen so many leave and nobody return. He is fearful to lose anymore of his beloved people. A darkness is starting to cover the island though and Moana goes against her father’s wishes and sails out on a daring mission traveling past the reef in order to save her people. Her grandmother tells her that the ocean has chosen her for this voyage and she needs to go. She sets off looking for Maui, a “larger than life” demigod with a trickster spirit who reluctantly joins her and together they adventure, battle sea monsters and creatures of the unknown and figure out their own identities while working to save Moana’s friends and family.

What we loved about the film:

  • MOANAThe cast is incredible! Auli‘i Cravalho is the voice of Moana and Dwayne Johnson lends his voice to demigod Maui. Both are wonderful and you can feel the pride in their voices as they represent their Hawaiian culture – as well as doing justice to serving several other cultures of Oceania throughout this film. They are also supported by the talents of so many others including  Jemaine Clement as the voice of Tamatoa, Temura Morrison is Moana’s father Chief Tui, and Nicole Scherzinger voices Moana’s mother Sina.
  • I love the family connections. I had a very strong connection to my paternal grandmother. She was my guiding light, my confidant, my counselor, my storyteller, my teacher, my own “crazy lady”. She helped make me who I am today and guided me through tough times. The connection MOANAbetween Moana and her Grandma Tala (voiced by Rachel House) was one I really felt strongly in my heart. Her mother understanding that she needed to go even though her father didn’t approve. Her father welcoming her home with open arms even though she went against his wishes. It was all really powerful. A wonderful message of encouragement and forgiveness. She is also lifted up as a leader. She is given the chance to make decisions for her people. They trust her. It was incredible and wonderful!
  • The soundtrack is incredible! “Moana” features original songs from an amazing team that includes Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foaʻi. Mancina composed the original score, but Lin-Manuel Miranda was so profoundly inspired by “The Little Mermaid” as a child that when “Mermaid” directors John Musker and Ron Clements contacted him almost 25 years later for this movie he jumped at the opportunity. My husband isn’t a great fan of “all of the singing” (not a musical theater kind of guy) but even he said this music was pretty good.
  • MOANAThe chicken, Hei Hei (voiced by Alan Tudyk), is hilarious and wonderful. As my husband says, “stupid chicken jokes just never get old”. We may have felt some empathy as we have a stupid chicken in our own flock here at the house and could relate to what Moana was dealing with. It was serious comic relief and we all decided that was probably our favorite part of this movie. The Ocean also plays a huge role in the film and brought humor as well as empathy and you see the relationship build as the movie goes on.
  • Moana is an incredibly strong main character and young woman. She is not a princess – she says this in the film. This didn’t feel like a princess movie to me, which I was so MOANAgrateful for. I have struggled through several of them – just have never been a “princess” person. That said Princess lovers will not be disappointed. Moana is a strong young lady. She is a leader. She is a voyager. She is a hero. She is what every girl should aspire to! She is what I aspire to be. There is no love story here – other than her love of the ocean, nature, her family, her people, and eventually herself. She saved as much as she was saved and I found that so refreshing! She is fiercely independent and supported by all of the women in her life. She becomes a hero by learning and being open to situations. She thinks things through and problem solves. She is a force, yet is gentle and understanding and with all of these traits you fall in love with her and cheer her on. She has moments of weakness and finds the strength to overcome them.
  • I love that she looks like a real person MOANAproportionally. She is thin, but isn’t rail thin like all of the princesses. I felt like I was looking at a real person rather than a stick figure that could easily be snapped in two. Thank you for that Disney.
  • The message of trying to save our oceans and earth is strong and wonderful. I also love the idea that the ocean doesn’t separate us, but connects us. That is so powerful and if we thought like this more I think greater respect would be paid to one of the biggest givers of life our planet has.
  • I love the cultural message that ties several of the cultures throughout the Pacific together in this film too. Disney and the film makers traveled to several island nations to bring Oceania’s legends to life in this film. They share their rich oral histories as well as the traits the people have used for centuries. Moana’s main outfit was designed so it would be suitable for an adventurer. Neysa Bové, the costume designer made sure the skirt has a slit in front to allow movement— whether she’s swimming, running or navigating her canoe. I loved this little video short Disney created about what was involved in the conceptualization of the movie and where they traveled to get their inspiration for characters, scenes and culture shown throughout the movie.

We highly recommend this film! My son says, “boys will really like it a lot because it isn’t a princess movie and there is plenty of action plus the chicken is so funny”. I say moms and dads will like it a lot because it is funny, there are several great messages, and it has a little something for everyone! In my opinion this is one of the best Disney animated films I have seen in a while. (Sorry “Frozen”…)

The Pixar Short, “Inner Workings” at the beginning was fantastic too. Wonderful message about being lead either by your heart or your head. It turns out you really need both to be really happy, and to take those little leaps of faith. It was so funny, I wanted it to continue and hope a longer film is in the works! Here is the teaser to give you an idea of what to expect.

Disney has given me fun activities to share with you that you can print out and do at home! There are 5 new ones listed below and you can find others that were released a couple of months ago at our earlier post here!

moana-dot-to-dot

moana_kakamora

moana_kakamora2

moana_watersafety

_______________________________________________________

I was given tickets for me and my family to view this movie at the advanced screening. All opinions expressed are my very own.

All images are used with permission. © Disney. All rights reserved.

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