Having seen my fair share of `princess’ movies over the year, Moana stands out.
One of the reasons is that the `star’ doesn’t look like your typical animated movie princess. Moana is a Polynesian girl and is proportioned like a typical female teenager. Furthermore she doesn’t have a `love interest’! At the same time she has all the attributes of a princess – she’s feisty, independent, resourceful and cares about her people and the environment.
The movie tells of Moana (voiced by young Hawaiian actress Auli‘i Cravalho), a chieftain’s daughter who loves the water. She is perpetually vexed that her father will not allow her to venture beyond the reef encircling their island home of Motunui. But when blight hits the coconut crop and the fish nets come up empty, the gods of nature need appeasing — and that will only happen if demigod Maui (excellently voiced by Dwayne Johnson) returns the magical Heart of Te Fiti, an artifact he stole many years ago.
With the tacit blessing of her wise Gramma Tala (Rachel House) and the help of the sea itself, Moana sets out to find Maui and with him save her island.
Along the way she faces numerous challenges. She has to learn to sail and then there’s Maui. He looks and talks big but doesn’t necessarily act the same way. Vain, selfish and not committed to Moana’s mission, he is also in the midst of a crisis of confidence, having lost his magical fishhook and with it most of his demi-godliness.
Together the two face numerous foes including diminutive, furry but lethal pirates, a treasure-hoarding monster crab (voiced by Jemaine Clement) and the smoldering lava spirit Te Ka, who also has designs on the Heart of Te Fiti.
Joining them on the journey is Heihei, Moana’s dim-witted but seemingly indestructible rooster. Heihei was one of many highlights for my movie companions – nine and six year old boys. Maui’s tattoos, which have a life of their own, were another.
For their mother and me, the story line together with the music and animation stood out. We both thought it refreshing to see an animated movie which had South Sea island myth and culture at its heart. The movie’s numerous, colorfully presented songs, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mark Mancina, were apt for the story being told.
We were also amazed by the animation, some of the best we had seen. I also must admit to being a fan of Heihei! It’s this combination of corny humour, the story and the animation which should ensure Moana appeals to a range of age groups.
Moana officially releases in cinemas on December 26.
*All images: ©2016 Disney.
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