Moana – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

moanaMoana – 4/5 – When it comes to Disney; they always strike a chord of reliving that pristine childhood of fairy tales.  No matter what kind of fantasy we escape to, Disney always finds a way to created something fun, lively and meaningful.  Through their catalog of films built through the years, they sometimes take a chance and broaden the horizon of those tales.  They do it with this film.  Moana is based around Polynesian culture.  This take helps breathes fun and excitement in the predictable fairytale storytelling.  With some amazing performances, gorgeous visuals and a simple journey/quest to hop on board with; Moana is another fun tale to add to the pantheon of Disney’s catalog.

Premise:  When a terrible curse reaches the island home of Moana; she must set sail to save her family and village.  Sailing across the sea with a Demi-god, Moana must face the true purpose of who she is to this vast oceanic world.

As with any animated film; the acting comes from the voice.  For the full list, please refer to the IMDb page.  Some of the standout performances are:

Moana (voiced by Auli’I Cravalho)

Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson)

Gramma Tala (voiced by Rachel House)

Being positioned within the art and styling of Polynesian culture; each of these individuals exude true quality through there characters.  From the sassy, strong but young Moana to the powerful, arrogant but loving demi-god Maui; you feel their distinct presence they represent.  With the bulk of the film focusing on these two; you get to see true companionship form when they have to travel across the Pacific Ocean.  The whimsical banter and unpredictable conflicts help create originality to their budding friendship.  As the main leads, both Auli’I and Dwayne do a great job in providing quality in their performances.  They humanize there CGI characters; creating something the audience can gravitate to.  The show stopper is Gramma Tala.  Playing a more plot driven role in the film; Rachel does a great job in providing a fun-loving grandmother to the wise ‘elder’ trope.  It is one that is infused with unique personality because of the lore behind her creation.  This is true with the rest of the secondary cast in the film.  Even with the use of common ‘Disney’ fairy tale types, the infusion of the culture helps add flavor to their performances.  The secondary actors/actresses breath believability into the surround world of the ocean and the islands.

The direction goes ‘by the beat’ when it comes to any kind of Disney animated film.  There is the basic outline of a linear journey, which focuses on two things:

  1. The origin tale of the main character
  2. Complete a quest to (save the world/girl/family)

The introduction/first act begins with these predictable threads.  This helps create the backstory, purpose and ‘convenient’ plot driven goals to build up the main character of Moana.  After the fairy tale tropes are carefully placed, the film steadily veers off into an original spin.  As mentioned in the character description; the added element of Polynesian culture helps breathe ‘new life’ into Disney’s ‘fairy tale’ methods. Along added influence to the film’s story is the use of a true heroine.  This breaks away from the ‘Save the Princess’ and ‘prince/princess romance’ scenario and gives true progressive elements to a predictable trend.  With all of this in the mix, it builds up an experience that is unique, fun and colorful to the viewing audience.  As Moana sets sail to save her island home, the second act is mixed with the lavished stylings of Disney magic.  This blending of predictable expectations with a touch of the South Pacific helps create a refreshing direction that is built on the tropes of the ‘wise elder’ exposition, typical musical quips, oddball sidekick and budding companion.  It plays to that nostalgic feeling while developing a story away from the norm.  As the story progresses, the depth comes in the significance of lore building, characterization and witty exposition.  With much of the film taking place out to sea, this helps keep the film moving forward (especially when there are some slowdowns).  The journey then shifts the ‘fetch quest’ feeling with some grand and creative action set pieces.  When the action ensues, it pushes through something unexpected.  The action adds more dynamic to the lore; layering contextual designs of the character/monsters with imaginative detail.  When the quest finally reaches the ‘end game’ scenario; it brings forth all that has built up through the first two acts.  With the purpose of the quest becoming way too predictable, the climax shifts the expected to an unexpected anti-climactic feeling.  This would have killed most films’ third act, but here it plays a vital part with the main character.  The poignancy of the turn helps add something new to the ‘happily ever after’ trope; a welcome change of events.  Once the epilogue comes, it is a new kind of closure that makes you feel good to have went on this journey with Moana.

The visuals are some of the best CGI to be used in an animated feature.  With the heighten sense of making things unique, colorful and stringent to the lore, the world comes to life.  With a mixture of luscious exotic locales, the odd and distinct character/animal/monster designs to the sweeping scale of sailing the ocean; you feel true escapism through this film’s whole journey.  With some added depth and stylings that can only be captured by CGI, you come to see true delicate detail.  This can be felt all the way down to how the water hits the sand.  There is a stark purpose to make the naturalistic settings feel real.  The action sets help add new levels to the experience.  With a mixture of slick camera angles and chaotic atmospheric detail, this frantic tone compliments the realistic overtures of the journey.  The score is something that makes you feel the joy of any Disney tale.  The music is the typical mixture of musical quips and ballads that are found in any Disney story.  Even with the common aura, the lyrical content and Polynesian influence helps create something different.

Moana is a film that goes along the predictable beats of Disney Fairytale, but spins new life with the character designs, amazing voice acting and infusion of Polynesian culture.  There is a lot of amazement to be found in this story.  If you’re a fan of animated films, Disney or like true escapism; this is one for you.  This a great time for the family, and worth the full price of admission.

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