Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Disney's Moana Gives Us the Strong Girl We Need {movie review}

"Moana" is the story of a teenaged girl on a mission to save her people, and the world. Moana's father is the Chief of their island, Motunui, and he prepares her from birth to one day take over his role. But she is drawn to the sea and chafes against her father's restrictions, forbidding anyone from venturing beyond the reef that surrounds their island. Moana's grandmother plays a huge role in her life, and shares her love of the sea. She is a key figure in the tale, and her stories and encouragement prompt Moana to jump into action when her island and its people are threatened by a growing darkness.

To save her people, Moana must seek out the demi-god, Maui, and bring him across the sea to return an item he stole a thousand years before. Maui was once a great hero, but has not been seen in that thousand years. He is a charismatic character, kind of full of himself, and covered in tattoos earned from his great feats. Adding fun - those tattoos are animated and can take on a life of their own. One of those tattoos is a mini-Maui, who acts as a kind of conscience to Maui - very reminiscent of Jiminy Cricket.

Early in their relationship, Maui refers to Moana as a Princess, which she vehemently denies. His counter is something to the effect of "pretty girl with an animal sidekick," which got a good laugh from the audience. But Moana declares she is not a princess, but the daughter of the chief. And the point is well - taken. She shows herself to be strong, independent, clever, and in no need of rescuing. She takes off on her own across the sea to seek out Maui and make him right an old wrong of his that is now endangering her people, and all the world. She stands up to him, takes control, and proves her worth. Another really interesting bit - there is no love interest for Moana in this story. None. She is a young teen girl, and romance or boy crushes are nowhere to be seen. I found that refreshing. Even in "Brave," a key story element was the need to marry off Merida, so although she was not interested, the theme of a necessary love interest for a young gal was still there.

This is a new type of story for Disney, and their first venture into Polynesian culture. The story, the dancing, the culture, the environment, the history, were all carefully researched. The directors, along with members of the production and animation crews, traveled to Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, and New Zealand to make sure they got it right. As the production progressed, their group of advisors came to be known as the Oceanic Story Trust (OST). The Trust includes anthropologists, educators, linguists, master tattooists, choreographers, haka practitioners, master navigators and cultural advisors who collaborated with Disney’s creative team.

In addition to the well-researched story and stellar CGI, there is a lot of great, original music in this movie, and it is performed wonderfully by the characters' voice actors. Yes, Dwayne Johnson can sing too. I love him more all the time.

I asked Boo for his opinion and he gave "Moana" two thumbs up. I half expect him to ask for a version of Maui's fish hook before long. Personally, I am already on the lookout for a Moana necklace. We're fans :)

"Moana" is rated PG. There is a scary monster, and a couple of intense scenes, but it is definitely not a scary movie. There's lots of action, lots of comedy, and tons of adventure. Also great themes around the importance of family, but also of finding your own way, and knowing who you are. Moana, Maui, Moana's people - all are on a journey of finding their true selves. We definitely recommend seeing this with your kids.

Disclosure: I received complimentary media access to view this film with Boo, for purposes of this review. No financial compensation was received. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own, or those of my family. 

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