Disney is knocking it out of the park! Of my top five films of the year for 2016, three were Disney films! Coming in at #2 was the latest from the Mouse, “Moana”, featuring the voice talents of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Concords”), and featuring the songs of Lin-Manuel Miranda (uh, “Hamilton”, obviously).
It’s the story of a young Moana, the daughter of the chief of her Polynesian island of Montuni. As a child, she’s always longed to explore the ocean, but it is forbidden by her father. Years later, fish are scarce and the island appears to be dying around them. When she suggests exploring beyond the reef that forms a barrier around their harbor, her father rejects her once again.
Her grandmother Tala tells Moana of the islands’ rich history of seafaring and shows her a cave full of large sailing canoes. She also gives her a stone called the heart of Te Fiti, the goddess who created the island and everything around it. She explains that the darkness creeping into their lives was caused by Maui, a demigod who stole the heart of Te Fiti as a gift for humanity, but was thwarted by a lava demon called Te Kā, causing the stone to be lost for a thousand years. Tala was chosen by the ocean to protect the stone and is now passing it on to Moana to find Maui and restore the heart to Te Fiti. But there’s only one problem: where is Maui?
After a typhoon flips her ship and knocks her unconscious, Moana awakens on a deserted island with one lone resident: Maui! After bragging about how great he is for making everything humans need and use everyday, Maui takes her boat and sets sail to find his magical fishhook.
Their adventure takes them across the seas where they battle coconut pirates, travel into Lalotai (the Realm of Monsters), and must out-wit Tamatoa, a giant crab obsessed with shiny riches (and also Maui’s fishhook). After teaching her to sail and navigate by the stars, Maui and Moana face Te Fiti and his fishhook is damaged. Fearing it will be destroyed, he refuses to help her any further.
Can she convince him to help her return the heart to Te Fiti? Or will all be lost for her island and her people?
Very funny, great songs, and jaw-dropping animation firmly place “Moana” at the top of my list of films from last year. I laughed, I cried, and I loved every minute of it. The soundtrack is beautiful and hilarious, featuring both Johnson and Clement performing “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” respectively, my two favorites from the film. Also Manuel himself performs a song on the soundtrack and there’s video online of him freaking out when he learns the producers want him to do so. He’s just so adorable. I want to be friends with him.
“Moana” has a great message as well and presents a princess as a heroine, not as a damsel in need of rescuing. It’s an all-around great film and absolutely deserves it’s place at the top of my list. I can’t wait for the Blu-ray!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and filmmaker in Vermont. He frequently attends movies at the local cinemas and you should say hello if you see him. Also listen to his podcast. http://www.lincolnlhayes.com