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Review: Moana – “Magical and amazing”


Moana is Disney’s 56th animated film and is written and directed by the studio’s hit-makers John Musker and Ron Clements – who were also responsible for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog. Moana also features songs written by Hamilton’s musical megastar Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a voice cast which includes newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (Furious 7), Alan Tudyk (Firefly), and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).

Thousands of years ago, the demi-god Maui (Johnson) took the heart of an island goddess, Te Fiti, so that he could use it to create life. But, after getting a kicking from a lava monster, Te Kā, Maui lost the heart, got marooned on an island, AND unleashed a creeping darkness on the world.

Moana, a fearless and already on her way to being great leader, is the chieftain’s daughter on a Pacific Island but wants to also explore the waters beyond. She gets her wish when “the darkness” begins to suck the life from her island – rotting the coconuts and emptying the sea of fish. Against her father’s wishes, Moana sets sail to find Maui, get the heart back, return it to Te Fiti, and save her people.

Moana finds Maui, who turns out to be a selfish glory-seeker, and they head off to sea for plenty of bonding, life lessons, friendship, sailing, songs, fun and adventure. The pair are a very funny and sweet odd couple and Maui frequently dryly breaks the fourth wall with lines about how he will throw up if anyone else sings, and the justification for Moana being a “Princess”: That she may not be “royalty”, but IS the daughter of the chief, wearing a dress, and has an animal sidekick. Moana’s companion being Heihei – a googly-eyed chicken whose panicked squawks are actually provided by Alan Tudyk (Firefly).

There are plenty of thrilling set pieces, including an encounter with a band of “kakamora” – who are pygmy pirate coconut monsters – that with its intense drums, fury and action plays like Mad Max at sea; and a wonderful duel with a giant treasure-encrusted crab, Tamatoa. Tamatoa is voiced by The Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and the preening crustacean sings “Shiny”, one of the best Disney villain songs, in an extended scene that is a smidge threatening, and extremely amusing.

As you would expect from Lin-Manuel Miranda, all of the songs are great and will have you humming as you leave the cinema looking for wifi so you can download the soundtrack immediately. Dwayne Johnson’s singing is surprisingly good, and Miranda and Hamilton’s George Washington, Christopher Jackson (who plays Moana’s father), both belt out a couple of songs each too.

Moana also has a beautiful bright and chunky art style throughout that breaks for some cute neat animated tattoos, as well as a far out UV nightmare in Takatoa’s cave. Magical and amazing, Moana is pure Disney perfection, and you must remember to stay until after the credits.


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