Movie Review – “Moana”

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Formulaic Fun.

Disney is in the middle of a seemingly endless renaissance, that kicked off in the 1989 with the release of The Little Mermaid and will last into the foreseeable future. With the acquisition of Lucasfilm and Marvel, as well as its own virtual monopoly on animation, Disney has become the poster company for entertainment excellence. giphy.gif

(candid video of Disney)

Moana furthers that excellence. It excels in practically every facet that it can – the narrative, the music, the cultural consciousness, the family-friendliness, the visuals, etc. Basically, everything that this movie could’ve done right, it did.

Moana is not a Disney princess, and Moana is not a Disney princess movie. It is a fairy tale.

Making Moana with this is mind was one of the most important things Disney has done in recent memory. Moana is a girl, and she is the daughter of her islands chieftain, but nothing about the film implies royalty. In one of the film’s beginning songs, Moana walks around her entire village, commenting on how she knows everybody; they live in a shared community with a few dozen islanders. Moana has no romantic interests throughout the movie, and her “body type” is miles less idealistic than other Disney females. As an audience member, I didn’t give these things a second thought. She is presented as a teenage girl who cares for her fellow islanders and yearns for adventure, and that’s all. This presentation is simple, yet much more affective than any movie that revolves around a princess chasing a man. It nearly brought me to tears while watching the movie with my 8 and 9 year old sisters, as I realized that this was the first time ever they had seen a Disney movie that showed that young women don’t need a romantic interest – determination, compassion, and adventure define Moana. We care for her plight, and she is an insanely charming, lovable character.

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With characters like these,

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Disney has done an excellent job at making female-friendly onscreen role models.

The film is incredibly conscious of its source material, and it treats it with nuance and respect.

The production team behind Moana did their best to make it as authentic as possible in its relation to Polynesian/Pacific Island culture. The characters, actors, visuals, story, and music all create an amazingly immersive experience, which easily trumps Frozen’s dedication to Nordic culture (I do not say this lightly, because I freaking LOVE Frozen).

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The cast is made up of an ensemble that is overwhelmingly Hawaiian/New Zealander/Polynesian, and the songs resonate with deep drums and beautiful choruses.

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(Me, every second since seeing Moana)

*Caution – Moana’s soundtrack WILL get stuck in your head*

Broadway’s golden child and everyone’s favorite person Lin Manuel-Miranda worked on the score for the film, and you can hear it; the music is incredibly unique for a Disney film, and it is incredibly addicting to listen to, with crazy beats and excellent lyricism.

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Yeah. WORK IT, LIN.

HOLY CANNOLI THE ANIMATION IS AMAZING.

We have reached a level in film where I would ALMOST rather watch animation than live-action, just because the visuals are so beautiful. As I watched, I found my eyes wandering to corners of the screen, admiring the crisp, clear beauty of the picture in front of me. The colors are vibrant, and the attention to detail is phenomenal.

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See it.

Moana joins an already contentious list of 2016 Best animated Oscar contenders – Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings, Finding Dory, and..

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Just Kidding (although I loved Sausage Party, I don’t think Seth Rogen will get his first Oscar nomination for this gem).

Moana is at times hilarious, at times thoughtful, at times intense, at times emotionally resonant, and ALWAYS a pure joy to watch. I urge you and your family to go see it; you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

 

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