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Nov. 27, 2016

"Moana" makes waves

by Sandeep David, Online Opinions Editor
The Disney princess franchise hits the mark again with "Moana", the story of a chief's daughter (not a princess), Moana (Auli'i Cravalho), who takes an adventure on the sea with the company of a shape-shifting demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and an irritating but lovably dim witted rooster to save the world from complete ecological destruction (pretty standard, as Disney films go). Though the plot may drag a little, "Moana" is a heartfelt and exciting movie for all.
The gorgeous colors of Moana's home island and the crystal waters of the lagoon enchant viewers from the very moment the movie opens, immersing viewers in the beautiful fictional world. Courtesy of Walt Disney Movies
The gorgeous colors of Moana's home island and the crystal waters of the lagoon enchant viewers from the very moment the movie opens, immersing viewers in the beautiful fictional world.

The movie starts off with Maui stealing the Heart of Te Fiti jewel, from who else but the goddess Te Fiti herself, which activated a curse that will cause the world's ecosystem to decay and die out. Moana, whose name means "ocean" in Maori, has been selected by (surprise!) the ocean to find Maui and return the heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place. This is easier said than done, however, as Moana has literally no sailing experience, or experience with the sea in general, whatsoever. There's also the little issue of no one being allowed to leave the island. Moana is able to set off on the quest destined for her with some help from her grandmother (Rachel House) and in typical heartwarming, Disney fashion, Moana takes on each challenge that faces her with seemingly endless energy and determination and, of course, song.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, musical genius that he is, has created a score that makes not only the characters come alive but their environment too, from Maui's dancing tattoos to the sparkling ocean. Moana's ocean adventure seems to get a bit muddled in the middle plot-wise and lose steam, but the audience is kept captivated through instant hits such as Miranda's "Shiny", performed by Jemaine Clement and incredible visuals.

Pixar has once again proved that nothing can touch their animation. The gorgeous colors of Moana's home island and the crystal waters of the lagoon enchant viewers from the very moment the movie opens, immersing viewers in the beautiful fictional world.

The real shining point of the movie is really the subject of the movie itself: Polynesian culture. The viewer becomes engrossed in the lush island of Motunui, in Gramma Tala's tales and is on the edge of their seats as Moana battles coconut-armored villains - the Kakamora. The way Polynesian culture is intricately woven into the whole movie, from Maui's origins to the beat of the music, is a marvel to experience. There are some similarities to other Disney films such as "Tangled", but "Moana" takes those known and loved tropes (sheltered girl sets off on an adventure, animal sidekick, etc.) and sails away with them in outstanding fashion.

In "Moana", Disney takes a classic formula (sheltered princess takes the plunge and ventures out and faces trials like she has never seen before) and polishes it until it's "shiny, like a treasure from a sunken pirate wreck," as Miranda's and Clement's song goes. The absence of the princess's (or daughter of the chief's) need for a man is refreshing and allows the story to focus more on Polynesian culture. From the happenings of the village of the people of Motonui to the mythology of Maui and Te Fiti and Te Ka to the clothing to the language, the attention to detail of Moana's culture really helps the scenery and characters come alive.

Directors John Musker and Ron Clements deliver laughs and tears in all the right places to craft a heartwarming story. Even if princesses aren't your thing, there's something for everyone, whether it be the splendid songs, the awe-inspiring animation, the exciting adventure, or exposure to a new culture in "Moana".



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