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Moana Review!

Jondee here at Motunui, New Zealand,


ALOHA Kakou! Disney had the modern Hawai’i in Lilo & Stitch (2002), but this film is going full Polynesian. It is okay as an animated film, a bit long as a musical, but still fun with some incredible visuals. Directed by the Disney team of Ron Clements and John Musker who have a list of Disney animated films including The Little Mermaid (1989) and Aladdin (1992)! They also have co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams who both worked on Big Hero 6 (2014). Jared Bush wrote the screenplay and he also worked on Zootopia (2014). The movie has the “Inner Workings” short which I saw at another film, if this is correct, I would have like better the “Lava” short that was in front of Inside Out (2015). The film begins with narration by Gramma Tui, voiced by Rachel House, who is part Maori. She relates the story of the goddess Te Fiti, who created life, she looks like the Sprite from Fantasia 2000. Maui, the demigod, steals her heart and the pounamu stone brings in the darkness that covers the world. Maui faces a massive beast made of lava, Te Ka, and is defeated with the heart lost in the ocean. Gramma Tui reveals herself with panels of artwork showing the story, she terrifies the children except one little girl, Moana, voiced by Louise Bush. Her father, Chief Tui, reassures the children. Temuera Morrison provides the voice of Chief Tui and he is best known for playing Jango Fett. He ends up scaring the children with drapes of the monsters falling around the hut. Moana is drawn out to the sea, she sees a baby turtle trying to reach the safety of the waves, birds are about to eat it. Moana has a palm frond to protect it. She sees a conch shell and the water parts for her. The ocean, Moana is Hawai’ian for ocean, has chosen her. It is not clear why exactly it has chosen her and how it helps her. We get a pseudopod like The Abyss (1989) that personifies the ocean. The visuals here are incredible seeing the ocean through the barrier, but not worth the price of 3D.


Chief Tui wants her to stay away from the sea, the older Moana is now voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, the newcomer who was one of the last cast for the film, but can also handle the singing duties. The character is interesting, there are many pokes at Disney animated princesses, but she is a great character in a film that needs a stronger story. He brings her to the village where they break into song Pocahontas-style, “Where You Are”, it really feels like schmaltzy musicals. The first songs are not too memorable. Moana is a princess, she says she is not, she is conflicted between helping her people and leaving to save them. This is mixed with themes of identity and family. Chief Tui takes her up a hill to show her the rocks placed on the hill by all of the chiefs. Moana is inspired to help her people, but finds that the coconuts are ashen and the fish are missing from all of the traps. She wants to head out past the reef to find fish, her mother, Sina, voiced by Nicole Scherzinger from Pussycat Dolls, tells about her father. Tui was heading out with a friend, but lost him to the sea and she says he fears losing her too. Moana is worried about her people and puts together supplies and is helped by her mother. She takes along Pua, her pet pig, and the waves destroy the boat and trap her in coral. Moana is able to break free and reach the shore. She sees Gramma Tui, again I’m thinking of Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas (1995). Gramma Tui wants to return as a sting ray like the tattoo on her back.  Enigmatic, but she takes her granddaughter to a cave. Moana enters and finds well built boats next to the waterfall. She drums on the largest boat from her grandmother’s instruction, it creates visions of the Polynesian people sailing, “We Know The Way” sung by Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda, I liked this song. Moana is excited knowing that her people were voyagers. Gramma Tui explains that the theft of Maui has made sailing dangerous and the people are afraid to venture out.


She gives her the heart to put in a necklace and then shows her the fishhook constellation to follow to Maui’s island. Moana takes an outrigger out of the waterfall into the sea. It is difficult, but Moana passes her first test with her song, “How Far I’ll Go”, by Cravalho. Moana repeats her speech that she will give to Maui. She discovers her rooster, Heihei voiced by Alan Tudyk, I guess he gives it the goofy quality, but he sounded like a chicken to me. The rooster pecks at and swallows stones. The typical animal sidekick is usually cute like Pua, but the strangeness of Heihei almost works. A storm comes and knocks Moana unconscious. She wakes up on the island, covered in sand, and angry at the sea. Then, she finds Heihei and the shadow of Maui appears on a rock. Moana prepares her speech, and is crushed by Maui holding up the outrigger. He of course is voiced by Dwayne Johnson, he has fun with the part, my favorite part is his war cry. Remember that Maui is a trickster god, helps creation, but at first is in it for the adoration. Maui signs her paddle with the rooster and sings “You’re Welcome”, a fun song. We find that Maui is not what he seems, he has been in exile, and wants to do anything to get away from the island. His conscious is his tattoo, lil’ Maui, who sides with Moana. He seals Moana in a cave, takes the outrigger, and Heihei as a snack. Moana manages to escape and the ocean propels her to the boat and after several attempts Maui finds he can’t get rid of her or the heart. He can’t transform without his giant fishhook so Moana has him agree to help her if they find his fishhook. This leads to the duo facing the coconut Kakamora pirates and a monster voiced by Jemaine Clement known for Flight of the Conchords. He has to teach her who to sail and become a Wayfinder. Moana has to help the demigod to face his fears and again think of others first. There is an end credit scene, but I had to head to Thanksgiving dinner. Three Pounamu Stones out of Five!