Film re­view

Is Dis­ney’s lat­est an­i­mated mu­si­cal des­tined to be­come an­other time­less clas­sic? TV3’s movie ex­pert Kate Rodger tests the Pa­cific charm of Moana.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - Moana Star­ring Dwayne John­son, Auli’i Cravalho, Je­maine Cle­ment, Te­muera Mor­ri­son and Rachel House. Di­rected By Ron Clements and John Musker.

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.

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