PLOT - Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) is the daughter of a Polynesian chieftain, and next in line to rule their island village. From childhood, Moana is taught the stories of her people and although she feels pulled towards the ocean, she is told that there is no better place on earth than their island and no reason to leave. Beyond their island is danger.
When she is older, her grandmother (Rachel House) reveals to Moana the truth about their people, that they were former seafarers, but they had stopped exploring when a demigod named Maui ( Dwayne Johnson), made a foolish mistake that put a curse on the surrounding islands. The curse has now reached Moana's island, killing the environment, and against her father's wishes, Moana takes off across the ocean to find Maui and fix the curse.
LIKE- I'm not quite sure why, but I keep hearing comparisons between Moana and Frozen. Is it the strong female leads? That both are musicals? Maybe it's the anticipation of Moana becoming the next "Big Thing"? In any case, my enjoyment of Moana far surpassed that of Frozen. I wasn't a big fan of Frozen, despite its overwhelming popularity. I like that Moana isn't a traditional Disney princess and that it isn't a love story. Moana and Maui develop a friendship or maybe a sibling type of relationship, but Moana's love is reserved for her family, community, and environment. The story doesn't even have a true villain. It's a story of hurt, anger, and miscommunication, which gives an opportunity for redemption, rather than revenge.
Moana is visually beautiful. I spent many years as a child vacationing in Hawaii and truly, the real thing looks much like the animated version, with lush foliage and turquoise water. It will make you desperate to plan a vacation. This is especially true for me, as we watched it in Oregon, where the weather has been icy.
The story has tons of creative elements, like Maui's magical tattoos that come to life. They add a comedic touch, chiding him for initially treating Moana as a pesky human. I absolutely loved how the ocean was a character, helping Moana on her quest. The ocean actually has personality and a sense of humor. It was emotional to see Moana's grandmother turn into a stingray after dying, and have her spirit appear to help Moana on her quest.
As an animal lover, I found Moana's chicken and pig friends to be adorable.
DISLIKE- I know Lin-Manuel Miranda is a big deal with Hamilton and he was among other credited song writers on Moana, but the music wasn't memorable. It wasn't bad in the moment, but I didn't walk out humming the songs, and now, a few days later, I couldn't name a single one. As a big musical theatre fan, I find this a failing. Frozen wasn't my favorite Disney film, but at least the songs were memorable. I walked out of Moana, wondering if it was even necessary to have made it a musical.
RECOMMEND- Yes. If you're a Disney fan, of course you'll see Moana. Moana is a strong story, with an even stronger female protagonist. I'd go as far as saying, that Moana is the best Disney female protagonist, if you're looking for a character to give inspiration to young girls. Moana is a film for the whole family, equally enjoyable for adults and children.