I wasn’t really looking forward to watching Moana because I was satisfied with the two Oscar nominated animation movies I saw from 2016 (Kubo and the two strings and The Red Turtle ). I still remember watching Frozen and I absolutely hated it. For this movie I can say that I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it very much either.
Moana follows the story of (obviously) Moana, who is the daughter of the chief of her tribe. From a very small age she grows an affinity for the sea and even the sea calls for her. But her father doesn’t want her to leave the safety of the island even though he notices that his island is dying due to a mystical force. So it turns out that all of Moana’s grandma’s stories were in-fact true. So according to the lore, the one who is chosen by the sea has to take the heart of Tafiti and return it to her or else, the dark mystical force will devour all of mankind. So with the determination in her heart and the ocean behind her back, Moana travels across the seas to find Maoui and convince him to help her return the heart of Tafiti.
So, let’s start with the good stuff. The animation is amazing. I don’t think anybody expects a Disney movie to have bad animation after so many years. The hair physics was just out of the world. The last movie that got hair physics so right was Zootopia, and I heard that they had used multiple codes for each strand of hair. Can you believe the level of dedicated programming? I can say that I’ll faint on seeing even one line of that coding (I have a bad history with computer programming, don’t ask). Auli’i Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne Johnson as Maoui were really expressive. In case you have not gone through the cast, Alan Tudyk has voiced HaiHai. The chicken! He voiced the chicken. That cracked me up big time.
The movie is directed by four directors and they are, Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker and Chris Williams. They have done a pretty good job of maintaining the momentum of the movie. I think most of the night-time ocean scenes were inspired by Life of Pi. The fluorescence mixing with the bubbly water was just magical. Also, no complaints about the artwork in the movie. Everything was so colourful without being irritating. The ocean, the sky, the clouds and the surreal singing scenes were coloured very beautifully. I noticed a very radical change in the choreography of the dance sequences and that is, it didn’t feel so choreographed. I think Disney is making a conscious effort to make the song sequences look less fake and sugar-coated. At one point Maoui even says that if Moana breaks into one more song number, he is going to puke.
The writers (there are 8 of them) have kept the story pretty simple. Most of the jokes are also very family-friendly. I think there is a very subtle subtext there which I’ll mention at the end of the review.
Now to the crappy stuff. Like I mentioned, the story is pretty simple by that I mean it’s actually very predictable. I mean, there isn’t any stakes. Other than a premonition I don’t think I even cared for Moana’s dying island. Also, when there is a demi-god roaming around, there is bound to be a deus ex-machina moment. See, I am not saying every Disney movie should have a very strong subtext. I know that this is a children’s movie but look at Kubo. It matched amazing visuals with a beautiful message and I think it will resonate with children and adults alike. Even now, when I watch my childhood cartoon series and movies, I notice the underlying message in all of them and that increases my appreciation for those animated movies. From an adult’s point of view (I think I am an adult by now) I don’t think the kids will remember these movies because they are trying to sell toys and merchandise instead of making a memorable story.
FINAL VERDICT – All in all I think this is a pretty average movie but it is watchable. I am sure the kids will enjoy it so give it a watch. The amazing visuals will keep the adults enticed. So, yeah give it a watch if you like animated movies or your son, daughter, cousin, nephew or niece is tormenting you to take them to a movie.
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So if you’re still reading this, you’ve been warned. Okay, as I was getting bored while watching this, I started to search for some underlying message in this over-simplified story. I keep calling it over-simplified because I like it when there is a complex or partially complex story underneath. It’s just my personal taste.
I think the underlying story is that this is a story about lost fertility. Now, now, hear me out. Maoui and Tafiti were lovers. Maoui stole/broke her heart. That led to the splitting of Tafiti’s personality. One was the scorching lava monster and the other was Moana. All that hate and sorrow was making her more and more infertile. So Moan can be the metaphor for the bit of hope that is left and that bit free Maoui from his selfishness and isolation and makes him restore Tafiti’s heart. I maybe totally over-reaching but if you think I am even 1% right then agree with me in the comment section. If you disagree with me then do tell me if there is any underlying message, in the comment section.