Review: Moana (2016)

Can Disney pull off their new “non-princess”?

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Title: Moana

Directors: Ron Clements, Don Hall

Stars: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House

Plot summary: In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

IMDb

Ever since Merida challenges the Disney princess trope with her strong-willed attitude to be untied to men, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Disney takes the final step and breaks out of its shell completely. When Frozen followed, it may at first seem that Disney was falling back to its old rhythm: feeding us the true-love bullshit. But Frozen was not necessarily a regress for this entertainment studio; Elsa’s independence and Anna’s epic failure with Prince Hans show how much Disney has transformed from its days with damsels in distress (I’m referring to you, Cinderella).

Moana is not a princess. Yes, she is next in line to be the village chief and, when you put it that way, the principles are still much the same to that of a monarchy, really. But Moana herself made an explicit point in the film that she is no “princess”. Who is, then, this new addition to the long line of animated Disney females?

Moana (Cravalho), goes on a quest to find Maui (Johnson), a demigod who had unleashed a destructive force of darkness when he took the heart of Te Fiti. Moana believes that she can restore the balance of nature and save her home island once Te Fiti’s heart had been restored by Maui.

I can perfectly say that the heart of the movie itself is the adventure that Moana goes on. She is not only on a quest to find Maui, or Te Fiti, but directors Musker and Clements have made it clear that she is also finding herself on this ocean-wide journey. And that’s one thing I like from this movie. The major theme of coming of age is delivered brilliantly through the character that I continue to find myself relating to Moana’s struggle to define herself throughout the film’s plot. The themes of family and home are a couple others that were explored in Moana and I am here to warn you, be prepared with tissues. I certainly wasn’t.

The next best thing about this film are the songs (what’s a Disney movie if it isn’t a musical, right?). The good news, the tunes are so catchy and singable that you will be looking up the soundtrack on Spotify as soon as you exit the cinema. The bad news, there may be a scene or two that was choreographed too elaborately that made me cringe and my two friends snigger in the seats next to me.

If you are looking for a flick to enjoy with your family this weekend, or simply wanting to spend your long-awaited me time, then do highly consider Moana. But if you are expecting to lose yourself in a Disney classic (as I did), where princesses show you that falling in love is as easy as picking daisies in a field (which I still hope to be true), then you can cut your hopes right there. Disney’s new heroine is not going to put on fancy dresses for your tea party.

Rating: 5 / 5

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 8.37.11 PM

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