Review: Moana

*** 3 Stars. Strictly for Disney fans and children.

Moana is a typical Disney princess film with a welcome Polynesian twist. The story follows a young Polynesian girl, who feels called to the ocean despite it being forbidden to cross the sea due to its dangers. An inspiring adventure which encourages you to persevere with your passions in the face of obstacles. The visuals are spectacular and the flawless soundtrack is enchanting but it is spoiled by the reliance on magic.

The film could be described as a mixture of several Disney animated musicals combining elements from The Little Mermaid (1989), Hercules (1997) and Mulan (1998) to name a few. There are even satirical references in the film to this very fact.

Moana is the chief’s daughter and is preparing to one day be the leader of her people on their island Motunui. This is conflicted with her desire to be out on the ocean and her father’s rule forbidding sailing across the open seas as he cannot bear to lose her (sound familiar?).

However, this all changes when the people of Motunui are suddenly struggling to survive. Inspired by her grandmother and ancestors, she sets off to find the demigod Maui and convinces him to embark on a journey to sail across the ocean in order to save the island.

The story has a strong first act and character arcs. It contains positive themes of following your calling, perseverance, selflessness and redemption. However, my only critical point is that there is an over reliance on magic solving the problems faced by the main characters.

Whilst the main characters Maui and Moana are robust, there are a few odd inclusions. These pointless characters include Pua the pig, Heihei the clueless chicken, “coconut pirates” called Kakamora and the giant coconut crab Tamatoa. Their only purpose seems to be comic relief for young children. Heihei was a favourite of the kids who thought the chicken’s antics were hilarious.

The amazing animation shows off the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Islands and conveys the ocean as a character. Both the score music and original songs complement the Polynesian backdrop of the film exceptionally well.

The best thing about this film is the distinct Polynesian flavour. The people, the music, the traditional choreography and the graphic art. It provides the audience with something different from the usual European or American flavour of Disney films.

In summary, children and Disney fans will enjoy this one but for me it falls short of being in the top echelon of animated film. At least it will give parents a break from Frozen.

Scoring guide

  • Story – 5/10
    (Plot, Character & Themes)
  • Acting – 10/10
    (Voice acting performance)
  • Cinematography – 10/10
    (Visual imagery & animation)
  • Sound Design – 10/10
    (Dialogue, Sound Effects & Music)
  • Editing – 7/10
    (Emotion, Story & Rhythm)
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