So, this was supposed to be part of a double feature for me last week, so that I could watch a horror movie or something this week, but... plans change, and here I am.
It's odd for me sometimes to watch a Disney film. For those that don't know, I got extremely pissed off by their interpretation of "Hercules", and refused to watch their movies for years after that. My boycott lasted all of 5 years, until someone told me to watch Lilo and Stitch. This is not to say there is not some level of resentment that still lingers in my mind.
Why would I waste time with that story? Basically it's a way for me to bring up how serious I can take mythology. Yes, I know I am a filthy, baby-eating atheist, but I still find the stories that shaped the various cultures of the world to be something very much worth time to study. Of the various mythological tropes that appear across cultures, one of the most interesting of the lot is the myth of the trickster. The trickster is found in many forms, Loki, Anansi, Coyote... and most important to this review, Maui.
But, I digress. There is a movie here to discuss first.
Moana tells the story of Moana (Voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho) , the daughter of an island chief (Voiced by Jango Fett/Abin Sur). When her island starts to die, she sets out on an epic journey (But not too epic, the movie only has a 103 minute run time) to find Maui (Voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and return Te Fiti's heart. Accompanying her on this journey, is her faithfully stupid chicken friend Heihei (voiced by Alan Tudyk... because of course he is.).
The movie manages to hit so many familiar beats that frankly, feel almost painfully familiar. Watching it, one could almost take out Moana, and insert Merida and no one would notice the difference. The characters are two different versions of the same archetype, separated only by culture. Both girls represent the rebellious daughter, who wants more than anything to embrace something larger than their perceived destiny. Both have a parent that vehemently insists that they perform the role assigned to them at birth. Both end up seeking that greater destiny that awaits them. Merida ends up finding help from a witch, and has bear sidekicks. Moana gets help on her quest from a demigod that is eager to please his millions (and millions) of fans... and ends up with a chicken sidekick.
The thing that will really set these two apart, is the songs. While, I often find the concept of the movie musical to be... somewhat frustrating. The music doesn't always feel like a natural part of the film, rather it seems tacked on. A gimmick used, rather than an integral part of tale. This film, seems to straddle the line between gimmick and part of the story. The songs also straddle the line between catchy ear worm, and forgettable fluff. Tamatoa's "Shiny" song has some amazingly catchy bits, as does Maui's "Your Welcome". However, "Where You Are" which is essentially the first song that sets the tone of the film, is kind of forgettable.
I honestly like the characters of the movie, and I think that it benefits a lot from the influence of Lin-Manuel Miranda. And honestly, Auli'i Cravalho manages to belt out those tunes like nobody's business. Toss in some anthropomorphic coconuts, and you have a winner. This movie was a great time, and I can't wait to add it to my collection.
RECOMMENDATION: Do you like computer animation? Do you like those catchy Disney Princess songs? Well... what are you waiting for? Go see this film! It's a good time for the kids, and I think it has enough jokes in there that even the parents will find something to enjoy. And there is no song like "Let it Go" that your kids will be singing over and over and over and over and over and over again, until you get the urge to stab things! So, HUZZAH!
IS IT THEATER WORTHY: Frankly, I went to see this as a matinee, and still feel that I got my 9 dollars worth. However, if you are one of those people that absolutely HAS to have popcorn and a beverage to watch a movie, you might feel a little less fulfilled. That is to say, it is definitely worth the price of admission, but I don't think it warrants the concessions.
FINAL THOUGHTS: While it never gains that infectious ear worm that made Frozen the darling of under 10 crowd, and the bane of the rest of humanity, the movie has heart, and manages to deliver a nice independent princess, which is something that is often lacking in these Disney flicks. The voice cast is great, and I applaud Disney's efforts to continue adding diversity to their stable of princesses.
FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10