THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Moana’ sets sail for family fun

Published 10:45 pm Thursday, November 24, 2016

Disney has another monster hit on its hands in the form of “Moana,” a Polynesian-themed animated adventure that is sure to please families looking for some holiday fun at the movies. That will be particularly true for fans of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose energetic performance transforms this film into something truly magical.

Unfortunately, it takes a while for Johnson to appear.

The story begins with a Pacific island princess named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) who isn’t content just living in her tropical paradise. Despite being warned by her father (Temuera Morrison), our heroine sets sail in an outrigger canoe, hoping to appease an angry god by returning a jeweled heart, which was stolen by the trickster demigod, Maui (Johnson) many years prior.

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Moana’s quest eventually brings her into contact with Maui, the demigod who is all bluster and bravado. No sooner do they meet than the movie gets a massive injection of energy. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Genie’s “Friend Like Me” moment in “Aladdin,” thanks to Johnson’s over-the-top performance.

I suspect that there will be quite a few kids asking Santa for Maui plushy toys this Christmas. The same should hold true of Moana, and it will be nice to see kids embracing a multi-cultural heroine. The filmmakers have certainly listened to criticism of Disney Princess Culture and given us a fully realized heroine who’s after something more important than just a happily-ever-after romance.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some kids will also ask for a plushy toy of the scrawny chicken sidekick that accompanies Moana on her adventure. The chicken is quite stupid and prone to getting itself into trouble but provides many of the film’s most amusing moments.

Too bad they don’t make plushy toys of Lin Manuel Miranda, who lent his hand in composing a truly eclectic selection of songs for the film. I don’t think that there’s a break out hit in the film, but the music adds a tremendous amount of energy and creativity to the story. I for one am thrilled to see that Disney has added Miranda to their stable of musician and actors.

The animation also needs to be lauded, particularly as water scenes have always been difficult to animate. The animation team has figured out how to make the sea into a vibrant character in the movie, which is no inconsequential task given that so much of the story is set out on the open water.

This is one of those movies where the filmmakers made all the right choices, setting up the story with interesting characters and a genuine hero journey to drive the plot. Mix in the artistic elements of the breathtaking animation and energetic score, and the final result is another truly impressive animated family adventure from Disney.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at