Moana is classic Disney. Solid, dependable, kid and adult-friendly, catchy tunes… exactly what we’ve come to expect from the makers of Frozen and Zootopia. In other words, you can’t go wrong throwing in with Moana for a family-friendly movie outing over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The film is not as easy-breezy and infectious in the moment as Dreamworks’ Trolls, but it has a much stronger story and message that puts it up there with the likes of Mulan and Pocahantas. And maybe even Frozen, for those eager to let that one go. The earworm from this movie: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson singing “You’re Welcome.” Thanks a lot, Rock. Anyway, here’s the gist:
Moana (voiced by 14-year-old native Hawaiian, Auli’I Cravalho) is an adventurous teenage girl who, from a very young age, is drawn to the ocean and yearns to explore. But she’s not allowed to venture beyond the shores of her Polynesian island community, where she is in line to become Chief, because it’s considered way too dangerous. Only Moana’s batty grandma seems clued in to the fact that the ocean has “chosen” Moana to fulfill the mission of her voyager ancestors and restore order to the islands before a looming darkness engulfs them all. Of course, Moana can’t do it alone. First, she must track down a narcissistic Polynesian demigod named Maui (Johnson) and convince him to use his magical fish-hook and expert navigational skills to set things right. Unfortunately, Maui isn’t too keen on helping Moana or facing a lava monster with whom he has an unpleasant history. But hey – this is Disney! Throw in a few songs, an animal sidekick (a comically-stupid chicken named Hei-Hei), some pirates (in the form of an evil band of coconuts), wisecracks that mask a mutual respect and growing friendship, and of course, a happy ending… and you’ve got all the ingredients of a good animated flick for the holidays. Added bonuses: dancing tattoos on the biceps, chest and abs of an animated version of The Rock; beautiful ocean and island scenery; and toe-tapping music by Opetaia Foa’I, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame. In fact, I bet we’ll see Moana on Broadway no later than 2019. Any takers?
Note: There’s also a clever animated short before the movie, called Inner Workings. It shows the conflict going on inside the human body as a straight-laced guy toys with the idea of playing hooky from his boring desk job to follow his heart and have some fun.