On an ancient Polynesian island, when a terrible curse incurred by the demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) reaches Moana (Auli'I Cravalho) the impetuous daughter of Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison), she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the demigod to set things right.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
We are so spoilt by the amazing achievements of animation we hardly notice when something special comes along, unless we look out for it. Moana makes us look. The quality of the animation in every aspect - skin, hair, facial expression, water, foliage, movement - is astonishingly high. This adds to the film's success and appeal, not just for animation buffs but for children, parents ... and even film critics; the fluidity and excellence of the execution is always important, and the filmmakers of Moana have truly excelled.
Something of a cross between Polynesian folk story and fairy tale, Moana is also a musical, an element that elevates the film with the texture this brings. And the setting of a Pacific paradise invites the filmmakers to indulge in some of the most spectacular flights of fancy to create land and waterscapes of great beauty. Another plus that propels the film.
The essence of the message (of course there is a message) is 'follow your destiny' and 'never give up'. These themes are evident but not hammered into our heads. The writing shows its power of economy at the start, when a few short scenes - less than the length of the opening song - reveal Moana's progress from toddler to young lady, who is both headstrong and responsible, as well as individualistic and respectful. (In the past, this character, who is heir to the chief, would undoubtedly have been a young male.)
She is chosen by the Ocean - a key character in the story - to find Maui, the recalcitrant demigod who has taken the pebble-like blue heart of the magical, mystical island that keeps Polynesia's life flowing. She must get him to return it to its rightful place to stop the black nothingness that threatens the idyllic life of her people.
Like all such journeys, it is dangerous, challenging and filled with opportunities to give up. To its credit, the film makes the most of this old trope and gives us excitement, heart, humour and sacrifice aplenty. Adults will not be any less entertained than the children who ask to be taken to this visual wonderland of cinema.
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VOICES: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk, Philippa Soo, Auli'I Cravalho
PRODUCER: Osnat Shurer
DIRECTOR: Ron Clements, John Musker
SCRIPT: Jared Bush, Ron Clements,John Musker, Pamela Ribon, Taika Waititi
EDITOR: Jeff Draheim
MUSIC: Opetaiia Foa'I, Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ian Gooding
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2016