PG – 103mins – 2016 – 3D
Big in Polynesian theology and even bigger in the size of its unwieldy eight-strong writing team, Walt Disney’s 56th animated feature under their illustrious, revered and hotly-anticipated “Classic” banner could very easily have been a distancing and abundantly exotic mismatch of mythic hoodoo and island life antiquity. A classic case of too many cooks…
But then these are the old reliable genre giants who, over the last 79 years, have made us fall in love with characters as varied and ostensibly outlandish as a wooden maquette with a penchant for telling fibs to an inflatable healthcare robot. The good news is that the Mouse House has once again sprinkled their sweeping, universal magic over Moana, bringing vibrant life, catchy songs and contemporary role models to this ancient fantasy quest.
Ocean-loving teen Moana Waialiki (Auli’I Cravalho) is the daughter of Chief Tui (Temuera “Jango Fett” Morrison) and heir to the island of Motunui, but when the land is blighted and their food dries up, the exploratory free spirit has the golden opportunity to set sail and put right a millennia old legend: find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Central Intelligence Johnson) and demand he travel with her to return the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti to its rightful home and bring vitality back to Motunui.
It sounds like a lot to take in, and in truth it is, but a wealth of bold and colourful character designs (lava gods, giant crabs, shapeshifters, pygmy coconuts) and some spunky vocal delivery make Moana engaging and enjoyable rather than a horde of kooky individuals with a string of hard to pronounce names embarking on hard to comprehend out-of-this-world escapades.
The man who was “The Rock” is perfect as the once mighty gentle giant Maui, a buff and heavily tattooed demigod whose cocksure ‘tude and overreliance on his magical fish hook masks hidden insecurities, while the eponymous princess (but don’t ever call her that!) is bound to be held in high regard by adventurous little girls for years to come – even if her pea-brained rooster sidekick Hei Hei (Alan Rogue One Tudyk) threatens to steal every scene his wild eyes and frazzled feathers feature in.
Fresh, original and inspiring, there is plenty to love in Moana and its grand story has emotional depth to underpin the awe-inspiring visuals and counter-balance the supernatural dusting, comedic edge and catchy musical numbers. My only nigh-insignificant niggle is irrelevant to the product and that is Disney’s release strategy: Moana’s cornucopia of bright sun, hot sand and crystal clear waves screams “Summer blockbuster!!!” through-and-through. Nevertheless, this sumptuous scorcher will resoundingly melt even the coldest and most Scrooge-like of constitutions this Christmas.
CR@B’s Claw Score: