From Disney comes their 56th animated feature film, Moana, telling the story of the strong-willed daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe. The tribe lives on a small, beautiful lush island and from a very young age Moana is repeatedly drawn to the ocean. The ocean seems to like her too, mysteriously parting and moving to allow her to examine shells on the seabed. As she grows older, she dreams about what’s out there beyond the horizon, yearning for something bigger in life. Something more adventurous.
Unfortunately, her father isn’t so keen on that idea and forbids her from venturing out into the ocean. From the start of the movie we’re told, along with Moana and the other tribe children, the story of Maui – the demigod who stole a mystical stone and ended up cursing all of the islands in the ocean, making the rest of the world a very dangerous place. The tribe therefore doesn’t dare venture past the local lagoons.
When Moana discovers that her ancestors were voyagers, roaming the seas in search of new islands, her desire to follow her dreams increases. When the curse begins to affect the crops on the island and the amount of fish they are catching in the lagoons, her mind is made up. Her dying grandmother gives her the stolen stone and tells her to follow her dreams, so she sets off on one of her ancestors boats.
First up, she needs to find Maui (Dwayne Johnson) so that they can return the stone and lift the curse before it’s too late. Without the magical fish hook that gives him his shape shifting abilities, Maui has been stranded on a small island for the last 1000 years, so when Moana arrives with a boat he’s more keen on making his escape than helping anyone in order to redeem himself.
For a while, Maui is a bit of a likeable jerk but he eventually begins to warm to Moana. They battle the cute coconut pirates (kakamora) together and Maui teaches Moana how to wayfind on the boat. They develop a nice friendship, a refreshing change from the usual love interest in Disney princess movies.
Additional comic relief can be found in Moanas chicken, who has also hitched along for the ride. When I saw the trailer, I thought he was going to be annoying, but his lack of any brains proves to be a real laughing point throughout the movie. There’s also a good sprinkling of musical numbers throughout and these are all fantastic. Nothing stands out as much as Frozens ‘Let it Go’, but they’re still powerful, moving and uplifting in equal measure. And in among them all is an enjoyable comedy number from the brilliant Jemaine Clement.
Overall, Moana is a hugely enjoyable movie for the whole family. It’s also beautiful to look at, with vibrant detailed oceans and landscapes all perfectly rendered. An additional mention also needs to go to the short which preceded Moana – Inner Workings. It had the whole cinema laughing throughout, really clever and enjoyable.