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The Dragon's Tale

Aloha, Moana!

A film review

Reagan Sauve, Staff Journalist

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From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes the story of “Moana” (MWAH-nah): a funny, heartfelt, family friendly tale of the adventurous, environmentally conscious, and strong-willed daughter of the chief of a French Polynesian tribe. Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) meets the all-mighty and powerful shapeshifter demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson, also known by his infamous ring name, “The Rock”) who together set out on a mission to find a small pounamu stone-the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess who created all life, in order to save Moana’s tribe from utter destruction.

Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world, including some from Moana’s tribe, voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania.

But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped-a mystery to Moana and the islanders. Unaware of the consequences, Te Fiti’s heart was stolen by Maui to obtain its power, but when the lava demon Te Ka confronted him, a battle enraged and Maui lost the heart in the ocean.

Years later, Moana is already bored with the island. When the fish of island became scarce, the coconuts begin to rot, and the island’s vegetation is dying, Moana suggests to her father to search for the fish beyond the reef. Her father, Chief Tui (voiced by Temeura Morrison), angrily rejects her request as sailing beyond the reef is forbidden. Moana’s mother, Sina, (voiced by Nicole Scherzinger) confesses that her father fears the ocean because he lost his best friend when he attempted to sail beyond the reef .

One of the most touching relationships played on the big screen was between Moana’s and her grandmother, Tala (voiced by Rachel House), the self proclaimed “crazy lady of the island” and mentor to our heroine. Tala never fails to make the audience laugh and “awe” when she is reincarnated as a manta ray. For example, when Tala was on her deathbed and tells Moana and to save the island, Tala helps Moana discover the one thing she has always sought for as she sets sail and fulfills the request of her grandmother and ancestors: her identity.

After sailing a long time, she finds Maui on a deserted island and the two quickly banter. She’s furious when Maui, the tattooed, muscle-bound demigod calls her “princess”. No Disney Princess movie is complete without the company of a cute animal sidekick, Moana’s dimwitted chicken named Hehhei. The Disney Princess tradition has progressed as it still holds down to it’s original charms.

Widening the ethnicity of the Disney Princesses and the portrayal of different cultures, Disney adheres closely to Disney animated musical formula in some aspects. With its well researched take on Southern Pacific mythology, Disney is able to make creative twist on the same tropes shown in Disney princess films. Moana’s lack of love interest shows the audience this isn’t your typical Disney film.

All the while, Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson portrayals of their characters were outstanding. Maui is charming and charismatic with excellent comedic timing, exactly what the audience would expect. He’s lovable despite his arrogance. Maui’s personal growth is interesting to see throughout the film. He and Moana are able to be serious in these moments. Let’s not forget Heihei, Moana’s brain dead chicken who never failed to make the audience laugh and wasn’t overused to the point his appearance would have been annoying.

Meanwhile, this was Auli’ Cravalho’s first film and her performance has been praised by critics. Her character’s performance was energetic and fun to watch. Her career has potential to launch from here and be succesful.

The film’s soundtrack tells the story of Moana’s ancestors, wayfinders, and voyagers through its music. Some of the film’s hit songs were composed by Lin – Manuel Miranda, who created the famous hit Hamilton: An American Musical and upbeat orchestral score by Mark Mancina.

Together, Moana and Maui take on an ocean filled with monsters in order to save her island and restore ecological balance to the world in this action-packed voyage. Disney takes a spin on Southern Pacific culture and created a richly crafted hero’s journey for an atypical Disney princess.

1 Comment

One Response to “Aloha, Moana!”

  1. Lauren on January 4th, 2017 8:31 am

    Lovely review! Moana is a fun, creative film, and I loved seeing Disney create a strong, independent female lead.

    [Reply]

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Aloha, Moana!