Set sail with the spir­ited, fa­mil­iar 'Moana'

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Stop me if this sounds fa­mil­iar: A Dis­ney an­i­ma­tion film about a bright and spir­ited young woman who feels sti­fled by out­moded ex­pec­ta­tions and dreams of ex­plor­ing be­yond the con­fines of her home. It's the premise of "Moana ," but it's also that of "The Lit­tle Mer­maid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Mu­lan," "Brave" and scores of other an­i­mated films about teenage girls. It's not a bad one by any means, and an un­der­stand­ably cap­ti­vat­ing foun­da­tion for chil­dren espe­cially, but "Moana" is, like so many re­cent films, dressed up as some­thing wholly new and bold and cor­rec­tive against all the sins of fairy tales past. There's an en­tire scene where Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) fights back against the demigod Maui (Dwayne John­son) for call­ing her a "princess" with such fer­vor that the ul­ti­mate ef­fect isn't "hooray" but more "who cares?" What is so wrong with be­ing a princess ver­sus be­ing the daugh­ter of a chief who will even­tu­ally lead the is­land? It's just se­man­tics.

It's dis­tract­ing from both the real virtues of "Moana," of which there are many, and also fairly dis­mis­sive of the mere "princesses" who came be­fore who ba­si­cally ac­com­plish the same things. In fact, the only real ad­vance­ment lately is the re­cent ex­cis­ing of a love in­ter­est - but I imag­ine that has more to do with mod­ern au­di­ences winc­ing at the idea of a 16-year-old hero­ine get­ting mar­ried than ac­tual progress in de­vel­op­ing more com­plex fe­male char­ac­ters. But per­haps that, too, is just get­ting bogged down in se­man­tics in an­other way and de­flect­ing from the very won­der­ful and joy­ous "Moana," a clas­sic Dis­ney pic to the core, burst­ing with stun­ning visu­als, good hearted hu­mor, ad­ven­ture and some truly catchy songs from "Hamil­ton" mae­stro Lin-Manuel Mi­randa. (Move over, "Let it Go," there is some­thing re­ally grand and even su­pe­rior about the swelling rally cry of "How Far I'll Go.")

Tech­ni­cal and artis­tic marvel

On Moana's is­land, ev­ery­thing looks like a dream - sat­u­rated col­ors and lush land­scapes sur­rounded by an ocean, the life­like wa­ters of which are a tech­ni­cal and artis­tic marvel. But Moana's peo­ple distrust the ocean and out­siders and keep them­selves iso­lated from the rest of the world. Moana, how­ever, is drawn to the sea, and the sea, a char­ac­ter in its own right, is like­wise drawn to her. She has been se­lected as its cho­sen one. Thus, when things on the idyl­lic is­land start to de­cay, it's Moana, en­cour­aged by her quirky grand­mother Tala (Rachel House), who takes the ini­tia­tive to sail away to try to re­turn the stolen heart to the fabled is­land of Te Fiti and save her peo­ple.

She jour­neys first to get the help of Maui, a cocky showoff who has his own agenda that doesn't in­volve tak­ing orders from a pushy teen, and then across the ocean where Moana, Maui and a dimwit­ted chicken en­counter all kids of ob­sta­cles, in­clud­ing a band of hos­tile co­conuts (a ter­rific gag), a glam rock her­mit crab (Je­maine Cle­ment) at the bot­tom of the ocean and a vin­dic­tive lava mon­ster. The fa­ble of "Moana" is sweet, of­ten funny, spir­i­tual and epic, al­though John­son's re­li­able charisma gets lost un­der the an­i­ma­tion and the writ­ing. Moana, how­ever, is an ex­cel­lent char­ac­ter with spirit, doubts, drive and a heck of a voice. She is a per­fect ad­di­tion to the ros­ter of mod­ern Dis­ney hero­ines and one whom young girls will ad­mire for years to come, princess or not. "Moana," a Walt Dis­ney Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG by the Mo­tion Pic­ture Association of Amer­ica for "peril, some scary im­ages and brief the­matic el­e­ments." Run­ning time: 113 min­utes. Three stars out of four. MPAA Def­i­ni­tion of PG: Parental guid­ance sug­gested. Some ma­te­rial may not be suit­able for chil­dren.

This im­age re­leased by Dis­ney shows char­ac­ters Maui, voiced by Dwayne John­son, right, and Moana, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, in a scene from the an­i­mated film, ‘Moana.’ — AP

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