‘Moana’ Review: Ali’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson Charm In This Typical Disney Movie

Disney’s magnificent animation carries Moana through some rocky waters

Sticking close to Disney’s wheelhouse, Moana is something both different and very much the same. Still hitting the same beats and the same narrative style, Moana is far from the deep ocean. However, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) delivers some sweet tunes, and there is still that Disney charm buried deep within.

The movie opens with a legend told by Moana’s grand-mother, Tala (Rachel House). The legend follows Maui (Dwayne Johnson), a demi-god, who stole the mother islands gem. This act awakens the villainous Te Ka, who attacks Maui only to let his magical stick and the gem fall deep underwater.

Moana (Ali’i Cravalho) is the princess chosen by the water itself. Her mission is to find Maui and deliver the gem back to the mother island. The only problem is that Te Ka stands in their way and prevents both from entering the mother island.

It may appeal to some that Moana is the same old Disney movie. However, with that comes both brilliance and tiresome. On the surface, Moana is filled with beautiful Hawaiian-like islands with the water being almost life-like. On the other hand, nothing in Moana is particularly original. You can describe Moana as being a hybrid of The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas with shades of Mulan. Her dream to see the open water is reminiscent of Ariel’s dream to see the land.

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Disney creates a princess for our rapidly changing times

Unlike Ariel, Moana is fresh in the sense that her journey is not dependent on a prince. Being chief of her village, she needs to save her people from the harm that Maui caused. There is much riding around her character and Johnson does not prove to overshadow her. Moana gets her time shine, and both characters work together to get things done.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magic successfully transcends to the big screen as Moana has the best soundtrack since The Little Mermaid. There are at least 2 songs that stand out from the rest. Johnson’s song is sure to be a hit. It is catchy and fun, while Cravalho’s song is sure to be the new “Part of Your World.”

However, even with all that Moana still had a hard time being engaging. The Disney tropes were a bit much to swallow, and the story arc has very predictable. Disney continues to copy itself without many consequences. However, there will be a time when the Disney princess formula will become tiring for everyone. For this reason, it was challenging to bring its viewers who are all familiar with their movies to get engaged with a story that was done in the past.

Though, Disney’s latest film still stands tall and has just enough to differentiate themselves from their previous works. If you are someone who enjoys the formula, then this won’t prove to be much of a bother. Disney still speaks to a wide audience, and Moana will definitely not be the movie that kills it.

GRADE: B-

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