It’s been three years (!!) since Frozen, so it was nigh time for a Disney movie that introduces yet another Disney Princess, this one from Polynesia. I was wondering when they’d have a character for the Polynesian Resort!
Announcer: introducing, Grand Floridia, the young 1920’s suffragette from the hit Disney movie “Vote-her”, that will appear at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort!
…is an animated (CGI) movie about a young Polynesian woman who is told explicitly by her father not to do something but then she, well, you know.
Side note: I am not cold-hearted. In fact, as I age I have found that I cry pretty much all the time. I’m crying now. Local grocery store commercials make me cry. I cry at work – for other reasons. I cried through Lilo and Stitch. And don’t get me started on Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’! I was starting to tie a noose to hang myself in the theater!
Side note #2: the one commercial that attempts to pull at my heartstrings, but is wholeheartedly annoying, is that Amazon Prime one where the kid starting pre-school doesn’t fit in so the dad buys him a superman outfit (via Amazon Prime) to wear to school?? All while some idiotic sappy song is playing, and it ends with the dad showing a “I’m a good dad” look on his face. Bonk.
What I Liked About Moana:
– Generally beautifully crafted – not Pixar-level quality but effective.
– Lin Manuel a songs! – some pretty solid ones, in fact. But thankfully no “Let It Go!” Lin has a knack for song writing and especially rap-breaks. And The Rock sings pretty well.
– Good message – another empowerment to young ladies movie, which is a good thing. But why do all the male characters have to be idiots?
– “The Rock“ – this guy oozes charisma. Does a great job with the material.
– Polynesia – what’s not to like about the islands, the simple life? See Monkey’s Restful Repose
– Troy Polamalu as Villager #1! Also, Ben Roethlisberger as “injured beluga”.
What I Didn’t Care For Much:
– Predictable and a bit heavy handed. How many times does the dad have to tell Moana “no”, without any equivocation? Everyone knows what she wants to do and why. She tells everyone over and over. She sings it!
– Questionable characterizations. Moana is okay, but her glares, shrugs, teenage mannerisms, squeals, shrugs, totally-so-totally-dumb eyerolls don’t fit in with the “ancient” times of the movie and are generally overdone. What was cute in Tangled is out of place in Moana. Also, the characters, in general, seem one dimensional. You can see demi-god Maui’s “turn” coming a mile-away. They are static, except for the “parental turn” that is plainly expected.
– Poorer quality CGI. I dunno, while the ocean and island scenery was above average, everyone seemed very porcelain doll-ish. Even the very-old grandmother had nary a wrinkle or age-spot. Was I too close to the movie screen? Am I aging prematurely? Moana was 16 but could have been anywhere from 12 to 40. Her mother looked about the same age, only taller and with fewer teenage anachranisms.
– Few Songs of Note. During the movie, the songs are good. “You’re Welcome” is a catchy tune by The Rock. So is “Shiny” by Tamatoa the crab. Otherwise, ten minutes after the movie, I couldn’t recall the others.
I thought it was passable but not worth a trip to the theater unless you need to burn an otherwise quiet afternoon with some pre-teens. Definitely rent it so you’ll know who she is when you run into her at the Polynesian Resort (yes, she’s already there).
No sex, no love story (which is okay, girls don’t always have to be driven by a love interest), no strong language. Some scarier scenes and a lava monster that might scare kids younger than 6 and a death (from natural causes) that might upset the same youngsters.
Your pre-teens will like it, along with even the younger-than-that-crowd. Disney has developed a formula to generate as many princesses as possible and they will use it until these movies go directly to video.
My chimp-like, 18-year-old daughter was also along for this one and she L-O-V-E-D I-T!
Scale (1 banana = rotten!, 5 bananas = must see in theaters)
Epilogue – The Plot
There were no fewer than six story contributors to Moana, and it shows. Odd diversions in the plot, which in itself is very simple. Coconut-wearing demons show up, battle and disappear in a nod to Mad Max but, was Mad Max such a blockbuster that people would catch that? Every issue is surmountable in a relatively easy way. They never fail at anything. Is that a good message? Lots of convenient plot points that move the story along.
The CGI Disney movie I believe was the most clever in recent times was Tangled, which created a unique twist on a classic story, and had some very likeable characters.
Pixar, on the other hand, appears to work on plot and story development first and then does the animation. Directors like Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Iron Giant) take a strong lead in writing the story and then directing the animation in a movie.