Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Running Time: 103 mins
Moana is an American film about a young woman who lives as heir to the chief of a Polynesian island, cut off from the outside by the danger of the surrounding ocean. However, when the island’s crops begin to ruin, Moana is chosen by the sea to save her home, by journeying far away to find the demi-god Maui, who possesses the power necessary to bring back life and peace.
Continuing their Second Renaissance in style, Disney may have just hit upon their most visually beautiful film of all time with Moana. With crisp and vibrant animation everywhere you look, this film is a real feast for the eyes. It’s also a very entertaining and funny family adventure, thanks to two great central performances, and although it may not have the brains or the emotional depth of some of Disney’s best recent work, Moana is an absolute delight to watch from start to finish.
Let’s start, however, with the animation, which blew me away. Just as visually impressive as Pixar, Moana is a film that really embraces the beauty of nature, and shows it off on screen in a way you’ve probably never seen before. Whilst Finding Nemo and Dory were incredible feats in depicting the sea through animation, there’s something about Moana’s crisp and photo-realistic vision of a bright blue Polynesian ocean that’s even more stunning to witness.
This is easily one of the most colourful and vibrant films I’ve ever seen. Along with the eye-watering blue sea, the landscapes are also absolutely wonderful to look at, with the beautiful bright greens of the trees mixing with the browns and sandy whites of the ground, making every single image on screen utterly dazzling for the eyes.
However, it’s not only the stunning animation that makes Moana such a delightful watch. Huge credit has to go to the lead voice actors, Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson, who play Moana and Maui respectively. Although both characters are at first a little difficult to love, when they embark on their epic journey across the ocean together, they become an absolutely perfect duo.
The characters themselves and their contrasting personalities play off one another so well, making for some great laughs and adding some fun into what can be a surprisingly small and solitary movie, focusing almost entirely on the two alone together at sea. However, the voice performances are what really make the two characters, as Cravalho gives Moana the perfect determination and strength to be a likable and exciting protagonist, whilst Dwayne Johnson’s sheer charisma makes Maui a perfect counterpart, and the two make the pairing hugely entertaining from start to finish.
Now, as a whole, Moana is wonderfully family-friendly, and definitely the most upbeat and funny of the Disney’s recent releases. The leading duo are cute and cuddly, and their chemistry makes for loads of laughs, whilst the story’s clear and direct objective makes a very easy-to-read watch for all ages.
However, that does unfortunately come at an expense. Over the past few years, Disney’s increasingly impressive repertoire has proven how intelligent, deep and rousing an animated kids’ film can be. From Zootopia‘s fascinating social commentary to Wreck-It Ralph‘s beautiful emotion, I was expecting a similar degree of depth and brains from Moana, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.
Whilst the animation is at times enough to make your eyes water, the story here doesn’t really provide an enthralling experience, as Moana and Maui’s journey seems plagued by a rather formulaic level-by-level plan. It’s entertaining without a doubt, but the way we follow the two moving from adversary to adversary, and never really delving as much into each of their emotional stories.
That was a little disappointing for me, but not so much given the rest of the film’s sheer beauty. If there is one major disappointment I have with Moana, then it’s the soundtrack. Apart from the fact that I didn’t even feel it was necessary, the musical numbers here feel very forced. There’s nothing like the rousing anthems of Frozen‘s soundtrack, and although one song is uplifting, many of the numbers both come about and end in a very abrupt manner, consistently frustrating me as I was looking to be more exhilarated by the music.
Overall, however, Moana is a very good film. Hugely entertaining from start to finish thanks to its two main leads and excellent comedy, and particularly delightful because of its utterly beautiful animation, I had a great time watching this wonderful family movie, and although its story is a little on the thin side and its music is somewhat underwhelming, I wholeheartedly recommend Moana, which gets a 7.7 from me.