Moana (2016)

moana poster 2016 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

A bit different than some of the other Disney films

Felt a bit long in the middle

Movie Info

Movie Name: Moana

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Genre(s): Animated/Musical/Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s):  November 14, 2016 (AFI Fest)/November 23, 2016

MPAA Rating: PG

moana maui fishhook

We are going to have tons of wild adventures! Or at least a couple.

The people of Motunui discover that their once fertile island seems to be dying.  Their chief’s daughter Moana always felt that there was something beyond the barrier reef, and at the encouragement of her grandmother, Moana sets out to save her island by fulfilling the legend told to her growing up.  Chosen by the sea, Moana must find the demigod Maui and restore the Heart of the Sea to Te Fiti.  Moana quickly learns that finding Maui might not be the hard part and convincing him to become the hero of legend might be the real challenge.

Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, Moana is Walt Disney family musical action-adventure.  Following Zootopia (also released in 2016), the film is the fifty-sixth entry in the Walt Disney Animated Features series and was released to positive reviews.  The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature (losing to Zootopia) and Best Original Song (“How Far I’ll Go”).

Moana is a movie that I consistently skipped.  Even when I got access to it, I didn’t really seek it out.  I didn’t think I would dislike it, but it kept flying under the radar when I chose what to watch next.  I admire Moana in some respects what it does to “fight” the Disney stereotypes, but it really still feels like a Disney film.

moana coconut pirates

Oh on! Pirates that look like every Nintendo game villain!

The story leaves out some classic Disney features.  Moana doesn’t have a love interest or a villager that she’s going to be forced to marry (it doesn’t even introduce a male best friend with a wink and a nod that Moana will end up marrying).  It also resists the urge to have a talking animal (it has a chicken and a pig, but they are even less humanized than the animals of Pocahontas).  The main villain isn’t as prominent as other villains like Hades (Jemaine Clement’s massive coconut crab feels more like the classic villain).  It also takes songs that are a bit less memorable and more complex (except the popular song “How Far I’ll Go” which is pretty typical of Disney theme songs).

Despite the differences between the normal Disney movies, the movie does feel like a typical Disney movie.  It has a wacky character in Maui (and proves Dwayne Johnson maybe shouldn’t take singing roles), and a plucky lead that learns the power within her with the help of an old, caring grandmother…fortunately, Moana doesn’t suffer from the murdered mother Disney syndrome.  It pretty much follows the path you’d expect the movie to follow and it feels a little long in the middle since both the Kakamora (the coconut pirates) and Tamatoa (the crab) both feel a bit like fillers.

moana te fiti ending

So…mind growing us some food? I’m pretty hungry and eating the chicken is off limits

The movie does look fantastic.  The animation is slick and bright, and the South Pacific oceans sparkle and glow.  I like the character designs, and Moana does feel like a real teen.  The movie in some sense even feels like it has a little Princess Mononoke mixed in with its style.  Like a lot of Disney films, I find the artwork in the framework story a bit more intriguing and experimental such as the opening tale of Maui or the illustrations of Maui’s tattoos…but it would have been hard to watch a whole movie in that style.

Call It Courage was a favorite childhood book of mine, and Moana has a bit of Call It Courage mixed in with it.  While no one accused Moana of being fearful, she is told there are things she shouldn’t do or try, and in classic Disney “princess” style, she bucks those rules to prove that they are foolish.  Moana is a nice movie, but I don’t know that over the course of years it will be the most memorable Disney film…but every Disney film has a generation that adores it, and Moana will sail on.  Disney followed Moana with Ralph Breaks the Internet in 2018.

Related Links:

The 89th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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