Moana - This Movie Modern Disney Rocks
Dir: Ron Clement & John Musker
Starring Auli'l Cravalho, Dwayne The Rock, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Scherzinger, Temeura Morrison, Jermaine Clement
Moana wears a dress and has an animal sidekick. So, as is pointed out in Disney’s latest, savvy animation, she is a Princess – like it or not. More than that, she’s a Disney Princess. But, more than most, she is feisty, independent, feminist even. And she gets to take the lead in a very fine movie indeed.
With the Mouse House delving into Polynesian mythology, Moana is a young girl on an island that finds itself blighted by events that took place man years before, when a Demigod name of Maui (voice of the Rock) stole the heart of, well, Mother Nature more or less. So add environmental issues to the theme of female empowerment. And if that makes Moana sound like something of a cynical exercise, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
What unfolds is a delightful sweeping tale as the young girl sets out to save her island and her family, rescuing said Demigod along the way and facing up to just about all the challenges life has to hand. It helps considerably that Pixar and Disney “Head Of All Stuff” (we believe that’s his official title) John Lasseter and Disney in general chose to place this story in the hands of Little Mermaid and Aladdin directors Clement and Musker, and the movie is propelled, and indeed defined, by a terrific old-fashioned score – written in part by Hamilton’s force majeure Lin Manuel-Miranda. These are BIG songs, proper musical numbers and are given their due here by a strong vocal cast and great visuals to match.
And speaking of the visuals – this is one of the most beautiful movies Disney has ever made. Their attention to detail and design improves with just about every outing (long gone are the threadbare days of Oliver & Company), and here we are even reminded of some of the studio’s darker moments, with a fine fire demon and a visit to a realm of monsters – both of which might be a touch too much for the very young ‘uns. Although a brief sojourn with a group of cononut pirates (who seem to have definitely watched Mad Max Fury Road) is a delight. (Plus, if you can stay right to the end of the incredibly lengthy end titles, there’s a nice little Little Mermaid meta-joke.)
As good as it is, Moan never quite reaches the heights of classic Disney. But in terms of modern Disney – they are totally on their game here. And that is, as they keep proving, a very high bar indeed.
(A friend of the site says You're Welcome has the Best Song Oscar in the bag by the way - he may be right!)
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