Moana (2016)

Disney takes a fresh new approach in its portrayal of a princess, in Moana. The last movie featuring a princess was Frozen, which again had a princess, per se. Here in Moana’s own words, she describes to the demigod Maui, that she is not a princess, but the daughter of the chief. And I do not particularly like the direction Disney is headed with this.

Directed by old hands Ron Clements and John Musker, the team behind enduring hits like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, Moana owes more by way of DNA to 2010’s Tangled, about a rebellious Rapunzel, and of course to Frozen.

Moana is set in the far-off Polynesian islands, filled with legends of Te-fiti (the earth goddess) and the demigod robbing a very precious jewel. Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli’I Cravalho) has always had a fasciation with the legends, told to her by her grandma, and a stronger fascination towards the ocean, since childhood. She is, very predictably, forbidden by her father, to venture beyond the safety of the lagoon.

But, when the fish start to vanish from the lagoon, plants on her island begin to wither and food becomes scarce, Moana, takes matters into her own hands and sets sail in search of muscled demigod Maui, who must return an ancient jewel to its rightful place and thereby save her home.

The story is that of a ocean quest, which we all have seen in some form. But it really lifts off, when she meets the the vain, arrogant Maui. Voiced appropriately by Dwayne Johnson, this beefy demigod gets some of the best lines, and it is the scenes in which Maui’s present, could be considered the best scenes of the film. His animated tattoos are among the film’s visual highlights, as are the gorgeous blue waters that get considerable screen time.

The soundtrack from the film is good, if seen independently. Particularly to voyager’s song. But since its Disney, there is always a comparison, and there’s nothing on this soundtrack that’s as infectious as the Frozen anthem Let it Go. The overall animation is good, considering the technology that goes into making these films. The models of all the characters, including Moana, are good, but I must fall for Maui in this one. Just for his super-beefy body and the animated tattoos.

The makers of the film, try to throw in some relief in the form of Heihei, the stupidest Rooster, but fails, as this is the formula which has been repeated in every feature, since Snow White. The dumb sidekick.

Anyways, I’m going with 3½/5 stars for Disney’s Moana. It delivers us a strong female lead of our times: smart, brave, independent & opinionated. It is worth your time.