By Bruce Harris
Disney’s latest animated tour de force is about a Princess named Moana, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, who must save her island from a mysterious force that is threatening to make her isolated ocean home uninhabitable.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as the demigod Maui, who reluctantly helps Moana on her journey. His voice acting skills were quite impressive, as I often found myself lost in disbelief that the sometimes gruff yet affable character of Maui was actually being cooked up by The Rock. And when it came time for him to break into song, I literally had no idea he could pull it off with such grace. I’m sure some auto tuning may have helped, as well as songs being arranged in lower keys to suit his range but at the end of the day, dude can now add musicals to his list of can do’s.
Speaking of musicals, I’ve never been a fan of the art form but I knew going into this that Disney was going to assault me with several musical numbers, the best of which featured Jemaine Clement (of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords fame).
Clement is no stranger to channeling his inner David Bowie, as shown above, and he used all of that power to pull off the film’s greatest number, “Shiny”.
I’m a huge fan of Clement and knew going in that he had a role in the movie but didn’t know who he played. I can tell his voice anywhere though, so by the time his character Tamatoa appeared mid way thru the film I knew his on screen time would be brief, but he made the most of it, stealing the show with his song.
At 103 minutes long, the movie seemed to bog down in some parts and I found myself looking at my watch during the third act and wondering when it was finally going to end. With the run time and a few slow parts being the only negatives, the film is bolstered by some amazing CGI. The island locales allowed the artistic team to truly show off their flare and they made great use of the current 3D technology to create an immersive ocean sized world. The movie also benefits from a departure from the old “damsel in distress” plots we are used to seeing in children’s movies. I applaud the film makers for creating not one but two strong and independent female characters in both Moana and her grandmother Tala, played by Rachel House.
Overall, I’d recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys animation, musicals, Disney productions or the work of Dwanye Johnson. If you have young children then you might want to wait till it comes to home video versus making them sit through the entire thing at the cinema. All in all, “Moana” is an enjoyable experience and feels like a brand new experience for the world of Disney.
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