Sunday, December 4, 2016

Theatrical Review: Moana

Date- Saturday, November 26, 2016
Time- 1:45pm
Party: 3 (my mom, sister and I)

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams
Songs by Opetaia Foa'i, Lin-Manuel Miranda (of "Hamilton" fame) and Mark Mancina


Moana- Auli'i Cravalho
Maui- Dwayne Johnson
Gramma Tala- Rachel House
Chief Tui- Temuera Morrison
Tamatoa- Jermaine Clement

Duration: 103 minutes (+3 trailers)

Opening Remarks:

:sigh: yeah, I made that comment in my last review, which I finished 30 minutes before leaving for THIS movie... we should bring a flashlight next time.
My phone helped somewhat to help us find a seat, but it took a little while. Luckily there were 10 minutes of commercials to get through first.
It wasn't a full theater, but there were quite a few seats filled and it was one of those receptive audiences that are great to be a part of.

And just as a little preview of what's to come... a bunch of them applauded at the end and a couple of us joined in. I can't remember the last time there was applause after a movie. Not to say the ones we've seen haven't been great. My memory is just not good right now.


One: However much of a dork as this makes me sound, I will admit... every time I see a trailer for "The Beauty & The Beast," I tear up and get kinda emotional. I am just SO EXCITED for it and it already looks like they're going to do an amazing job with it.

Two was a teaser trailer for "Cars 3," which I just heard about only a couple of days before this. Basically, Lightning McQueen takes a major spill that looks reminiscent of a couple recent NASCAR crashes that looked really bad.

Three... I swear, every time I see a trailer, I want to see "Sing" even more. That just looks like it's going to be so much fun. Plus "American Idol" (despite being upset with the last few winners and how this season wasn't acknowledged at all in the series finale) is my jam.

The Short:

"Finding Dory" had a really cute short this year in the form of "Piper."
"Frozen" had a great trip through nostalgia with "Get a Horse."

"Inner Workings" is entertaining and deep enough to be considered for an Oscar, I think.
We see the day of the life of a paper pusher from the POV of his internal organs. Namely, his brain and his heart and the conflicts between them. There's a running joke that has my sister and I almost gasping for breath, we were laughing so hard.
But it also gets serious at a point where the theater got quiet and it got all us thinking.
No worries, there is a happy ending, but it does make you think about a lot of things.

As for the Oscar for best full-length animated film... "Moana" just made things more competitive and more complicated for the committee making that choice.

The Main Event:

Moana is the daughter of the chief of a Hawaiian island and she's been groomed to be the next village chief. But her island is dying and her father refuses to allow her and the villagers to venture beyond the reef to save it. She not only is following the ocean's call, as it has since she was a baby, but also her grandma's encouragement.
How she plans to do it: find the demigod Maui and have him restore the heart of Te Fiti. (There's a prologue that explains this legend, which of course, turns out to be true).


While I don't see this being a bigger hit than "Frozen"... I also didn't expect "Frozen" to become the phenomenon it did, so what do I know?

Although this movie was in the can before the success of "Hamilton," the music will be another great notch to add to Lin-Manuel Miranda's belt.
People who write about Disney movies write an air of condescension that all these Disney princesses have a song about what they want. It started with "The Little Mermaid" and has been a tradition ever since. I know it's become a cliché, but what is necessarily wrong with that?
That being said, "Let it go" is still the best in recent history (I'd have to give to "Part of Your World" for the broad scope).

"How Far I'll Go"... I don't remember any of the words, but the melody is still with me, even though it's a week later.
"You're Welcome" is so ridiculously ego-driven (courtesy of Maui), but I was smiling the entire time.
As for the "Shiny" song (sung by the hermit crab who has Maui's magical hook)... er... not so much. Don't get me wrong, we're all distracted by shiny objects, but I felt about it the same way I did about Olaf's song in "Frozen" about bringing back summer. Except I like the summer song a lot more.

Moana is another great character. Although she's defying her parents (particularly her father), she's doing so out of love for her people and her island. She has a lot of heart and spirit and you can't take her lightly. Especially when the ocean is at her side. You wouldn't expect it, but the ocean is as great a character in this as her pig and her rooster friend, Hei-Hei. Easily the stupidest rooster you'll ever meet, but you can't help but fall in love with him- just like the legions of the animal side-kicks Disney has introduced us to over the years.

Dwayne Johnson apparently lobbied hard to be part of this movie because he's half-Samoan and he does not disappoint. He IS this character, Maui. A lot of ego, but he also has his quirks and moments where you can't help but by entertained by him.

Not sure why, but he reminded me a lot of Inuyasha (the titular character of one of my favorite animé series)... not just his attitude- which is the unwillingness to work with the female heroine, but also the fact he stole the precious article that needs to be restored in order to save the world. Maybe it's the necklace and the long hair...

Image result for maui moanaImage result for Inuyasha

You be the judge..

Hei-Hei the rooster is a bit of scene-stealer, but Maui's "mini-me" conscience tattoo garners just as many laughs.

Of course, the alliance between Moana and Maui is an uneasy one, but it's entertaining to see how it all shakes out.

If there are any negatives, I can narrow it down to two things.

Most notably: we have that stupid cliché where the protagonist hits a brick wall, everything seems so hopeless and divine intervention comes along to set them back on the path they're meant to be on. It just seemed like a cheap way to length the movie by 10 minutes.

But also: once all the conflict is resolved and Moana returns home... the movie just ends. Such a rift formed between her and her father that disheartened the movie... to have it repaired so easily with no real discussion about it... I know this is a Disney movie, but I just wanted there to be more of it. It doesn't necessarily have to come to an end immediately after the main conflict is resolved. Shouldn't we get to savor that resolution with the characters for 5-10 minutes first?

I won't give anything away, but how the resolution regarding Moana, Maui and Te Fiti comes about... it's something you don't immediately expect, but once you realize what's happening, the pay-off is pretty spectacular.

Interestingly, this movie really doesn't have a villain. At least not in the way you normally expect. At least they didn't do what they did in "Frozen" where they seemed to tack on a villain in the last 15 minutes of the movie where it comes completely out of nowhere.
Yeah, I am still kinda upset about that. I'm not saying it had to be overtly obvious, but dropping a hint or two throughout the movie would've been nice.

Other than that and the whole "orphaning our protagonist(s)" cliché, "Frozen" is still one of my favorite Disney movies ever.

Where "Moana" will fit in with the legions of Disney princess movies, it's anyone's guess. It might not be another cultural phenomenon, but it's definitely another great addition to the franchise.

Grade: A-

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