Movie Review: Moana

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line:  Beautifully rendered, well thought out story line with some wonderful songs and an annoying pet sidekick.  Preceded by a lackluster short.

Let’s start with the short animated film that Pixar has made ubiquitous for animated movies.  This one is called “Inner Workings” and it has a clever pitch.  What if your organs were active members in the choices you make during your day?  Unfortunately, the pitch is the only thing that is clever.  There are some inspired moments in the short like when he has to empty his bladder, but mostly it’s just a battle between the brain and the heart.  Hint: The brain wins.  As my brother mentioned, it would have been better if the movie ended with the guy ignoring his brain and following his heart and going surfing only to get eaten by a shark.  I’m guessing there’s a reason why we don’t make children’s shows.

The feature film, “Moana”, is delightful despite following the trite Disney Princesses model of animation.  Disney has once again decided to forego their traditional pencil and ink animation method for the computer generated animation that has practically taken over animated films in general.  The did, after all, pay all that money to buy Pixar.  Might as well take advantage of all that technology.  And take advantage of that technology, they did.  When you’re making a movie about island life, water is going to invariably play an important part and the computer generated water is especially effective.  Really, though, everything about the movie is gorgeous from the islands themselves, to the islanders, to the water, to the ghostly ancestors, to the animated tattoos of the demigod Maui, to the sea life.

What Disney film would be complete without songs?  The soundtrack to “Moana” is probably one of the best Disney has produced.  Of special note are the main song, “How Far I’ll Go”, which is soaring in its breadth and scope, as well as the playful “You’re Welcome” which shows off Dwayne Johnson’s singing chops in his role as Maui.

My only real complaint about the movie is the animal sidekicks.  In this one, there’s a piglet and a mentally challenged rooster.  The piglet is harmless and cute and mostly useless.  The rooster I just don’t get.  This makes two Disney films in a row that incorporate mentally challenged animals, the first being “Finding Dory” which featured both a bird and a seal.  I just don’t get the humor in making fun of animals whose entire purpose is to act even stupider than they normally would.  There is nothing redeeming about the rooster’s stupidity at all.  It would be one thing if the rooster kept doing this one stupid thing and it turns out that stupid thing ends up saving the day, but nope, just a stupid rooster doing stupid things and having jokes about it being eaten thrown at it by Maui.

Regardless of my petty complaints, this is a very solid movie.  Its story is engaging for both adults and children and there are elements that will be enjoyed by both throughout.  It also helps that Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame both wrote some of the songs and sang a few in the movie.  Or at least for me.  I’m a little obsessed with “Hamilton”.

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