Written By Jacob Chimilar
After the stellar Zootopia earlier this year, Disney has brought us their next musical animated feature starring Dwayne Johnson and Auli'i Cravalho with music from Lin Manuel Miranda. The story follows Moana a girl who is drawn to the sea quite literally when a wave invites her into the water when she is a baby and the connection returns when she is faced with a choice, stay on the island as chief or follow her dreams of sailing the ocean. Now with her island dying, the only way to fix it is by finding Maui and going on a quest to return an object to its rightful place and save her island.
This was a somewhat by the book Disney movie for me. It borrowed elements from tried and true story elements that make up a good Disney movie. Moana and Maui make for a good team and their chemistry is great. Moana has a solid story arc as a young woman seeking to find her own path. Maui feels like the Genie to her Aladdin with a "Friend like me" style musical number and the ability to get her out of a jam, which makes sense since the directors also worked on Aladdin all those years ago. Throughout the film with the help of Maui, Moana proves to be a worthy explorer and learns things about herself and her culture she didn't before.
Dwayne Johnson and Auli'i Cravalho were both excellent in their roles, I hope to see them get more work in animation in the future. The music for the most part worked. It wasn't a big sweeping musical as Frozen but it had its moments, they just didn't gel as well as I had hoped. The humor was pretty good, with Maui providing most of the laughs, alongside a "for the kids" chicken designed to just be stupid the whole time to gain a laugh. Disney should know better by now.
I would have liked to have seen more of Maui and Moana's relationship grow because even by the end I didn't quite feel their friendship but as it is we got a decent partnership. The action sequences were great and genuinely exciting. The animation was top notch of course and the more magical elements were just that. It was definitely more of a feast for the eyes and ears and not quite as much of the heart. Or at least not as much as I'd hope from Disney though it wasn't without some mild successes.
If you are a fan of animated Disney films I think you'll find a perfectly good time awaits you. It's not as good as Zootopia or Inside Out but it's solid family entertainment with some fun songs, a good bit of magic, adventure and self discovery.