Is Disney’s latest animated musical destined to become another timeless classic? TV3’s movie expert Kate Rodger tests the Pacific charm of Moana.
They even get The Rock (cast as Maui) to sing.
Disney does it again. From the two directors behind timeless classics The Little Mermaid and Aladdin comes a new Disney fairytale, and after just one screening, I know Moana will be a classic in our household too. First things first, there is no way I can review this story as anything but a New Zealander, a grateful and connected resident of Aotearoa and its extended Pacific Island whanau. And what Disney has gifted us in particular is a story that will resonate with us more than it will anywhere else in the world. The team behind the film had a wonderful thing to say, something they in turn were told during their research for the film in Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand, and it really stuck with me: “The ocean doesn’t separate our islands, it connects them.”
Moana is full of Pacific legend, the story pulling strands from here and there, weaving together a fresh, inspirational, and hugely entertaining family adventure.
The story begins on the small idyllic island of Motunui, nestled somewhere in the South Pacific about 2000 years ago. Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is the daughter of Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) and will one day be Chief of the village herself. But the ocean has been calling her ever since she was a cheerful, chubby little toddler, her eyes constantly gazing beyond the reef. Voyaging is in her blood, she just knows it, yet for reasons unknown to her, her father keeps her tied to terra firma, convinced his people will remain safe and thrive by staying exactly where they are.
But there is darkness spreading. Demi-god Maui has been a bad, bad boy, and his recklessness soon washes up on Motunui’s pristine shores. The fish disappear, their crops rot in the ground, and Moana knows she must risk everything to save her village. With the help of her Gramma Tala (Rachel House), the self-proclaimed resident “crazy lady”, Moana finally gets her wish.
Of course this isn’t just a Disney movie, it’s a Disney musical, and it does not disappoint on that front either. The hottest ticket on Broadway and beyond right now is award-winning musician Lin-Manuel Miranda. On board with the talented Mark Mancina ( The Lion King) and Samoan musician Opetaia Foa’i, they hit exactly the right note, bringing the intrinsic flavour of the Pacific to the masses in an incredibly catchy way. They even manage to get The Rock (perfectly cast as Maui) to sing, and I dare you not to be humming You’re Welcome for days after watching!
There are many reasons why Moana feels so fresh, and here’s the obvious one. This feisty little adventurer will charm every creature she encounters, but at no point do the filmmakers see the need for her to “fall in love” – the perennially clichéd happy fairytale ending. But fear not all you romantics out there – if falling in love really is your thing, you may soon find yourself falling head over heels for Moana. I certainly did.