Nominated for several awards, among them Best Song, and Best Animated Picture, and winner of the “Best movie for adults that don’t want to grow up” award (I hadn’t heard of it either), Moana has received an unusual amount of critical acclaim, especially for what it is, and how it was marketed. It is however, a very well made film.
Moana follows the story of the titular character, a young heiress to a Polynesian island chiefdom who, from a young age has felt a calling to the water. Unfortunately, she lives in a tribe that lives by strict rules forbidding water travel. Spurred on by her spiritually minded grandmother, but held back by her well-meaning but overprotective father, she is torn by what she sees as her duty to her people, and what she feels in her heart. When the island’s food supplies begin to dwindle, she decides to venture out and search for Maui, a Demigod who is said to be able to find a special stone, that is the heart of Te Fiti, the island goddess who brought prosperity to the islanders.
One thing that Moana does well is its portrayal of the relationship between Moana and her parents. They are not stifling, nor do they tear her down necessarily. They only want to keep her safe, and teach her the importance of serving her people, which she ultimately learns as her quest progresses.
Moana does have a lot going for it. The movie also offers a decent dose of comedy, an impaired chicken — voiced by Alan Tudyk of all people — being the butt of a good many jokes. The music is a soundtrack to be reckoned with; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s award-winning anthem “How Far I’ll Go” , promising to be stuck in your head long after the credits role.
With all that said, there is a certain contrived quality to some parts of Moana. Disney is most definitely cashing in on female empowerment, and while its inspirational message is in itself an important one, some parts of it still feel a bit inorganic. Honest Trailers said it best, dubbing How Far I’ll Go, “The Let It Go Song”. Nonetheless, Moana is certainly an enjoyable viewing experience, and a masterfully constructed movie that will entertain, even if it doesn’t necessarily break new ground.