Disney's 'Moana' Warms Up the Winter Box Office
It’s safe to say by this point that the Disney Princess machine is back in full force. “Moana,” the latest of the new lineup of Disney animated films, hit the box office this fall. While it treads on familiar territory (this is a Disney princess movie after all), it tells a complete and satisfying tale with the sort of scope and production values we’ve come to expect. It may be far from perfect, but “Moana” nonetheless remains a roaring good time and is definitely worth the watch.
The plot begins with the legend of Te Fiti, a goddess who creates life, having her precious life stone taken by the mischievous demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). On his way from fleeing, Maui is attacked by the lava creature Te Ka and ultimately ends up losing it, giving birth to a wave of darkness and monsters that begin to spread across the ocean.
Fast-forward to many years later to the island of Motonui, where our heroine Moana (Auli Cravalho) is living in an idyllic village. Moana is the daughter of the village chieftain and is destined to inherit his “throne.” The problem is that unlike her father, a strict isolationist who fears ever leaving the island, Moana is an outgoing woman who believes all the answers to their problems lie outside the safe confines of Motonui.
Things ultimately come to a head as the darkness spreading across the oceans begins to hit Motonui. The crops begin to die, the fish leave and their entire livelihood is in danger. Moana is ultimately tasked with seeking out Maui and Te Fiti’s life stone, returning it to the Goddess and stopping the darkness from destroying her home.
Overall, it’s a familiar setup with a nice exotic island theme behind it. Of course, “Moana” is a Disney movie, so it should go without saying the production quality is top-notch. The animation is beautiful, if not outright stunning at times.
The unique island aesthetic allows for the Disney animators to draw upon some innovative designs for their characters this time around. One scene includes an amusing, energetic chase sequence featuring tribal coconuts.
Still, as fun as it is, “Moana” is not a perfect movie and there are a couple nagging problems that stop it from being a true classic. Though the songs featured are good, the film could’ve used one or two less. A few are repeated once or twice throughout without any real reason aside from padding out the runtime.
That leads into the other major criticism for the film: there is an excessive amount of padding. Things begin well, but come the second act there are a lot of moments that ultimately mean nothing for the film as a whole. Take, for instance, a bit where Maui seems to have lost his ability to control his magic. The film portrays it as a huge problem, but it gets resolved in less than ten minutes and is never brought up again.
“Moana” has a number of these sorts of things scattered throughout that can seem distracting. Still, it is a fun movie and the way the climax plays out salvaged what was honestly a very bland villain. “Moana” is a must see for any Disney fan, and for those who are on the fence, go check it out.