Film Review: Moana

Moana, the latest computer-animated epic from Disney (and four directors!), has already proven a hit.

On a Polynesian island in a fanciful past, we’re introduced to the mythology that will form the basis of the plot, with world-creating goddess Te Fiti having her heart stolen by naughty demigod Maui, him losing it in a battle with Te Kā and the resulting darkness and fear spreading to the world beyond.

This means that the island in question has a population scared to venture beyond the reef (which accounts for the musical number Where We Are), but when the local coconuts go bad and the fish vanish, the young and soon-to-be-Chief Moana (voiced by Cravalho) dares to suggest travelling further out and hopefully freeing Maui.

Her Dad Tui (voiced by Morrison) is horrified, but she goes anyway, partially as she knows that the sea is her friend, after a lovely early scene in which she helps an imperilled baby turtle (and apparently because ‘Moana’ means ocean, although that’s not actually said).

Her voyage eventually takes her to the island where Maui is trapped, and he is revealed as a jumbo show-off with magical tattoos and a voice contributed by Dwayne, whose famously jokey persona obviously informed the character’s amusingly egomaniacal carry-on.

After much convincing (and his funny song You’re Welcome), Moana and Maui travel further into danger to retrieve his mystical fish-hook, and wind up in Lalotai, a monster’s realm where self-obsessed Tamatoa (voiced by Jemaine), a gargantuan crab, has a ball singing Shiny, a catchy tune about how wonderful he is.

Things get surprisingly intertextual too, particularly when Moana mocks the Disney princess tradition with, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.”

This will naturally prove a summery fave for the small-fry, even if the songs don’t quite hit the heights and the final act feels a little flat, despite the appearance of cool lava god Te Kā. And surely there’s room for a Frozen/Moana crossover? Can’t you just see Olaf the snowman cracking one-liners as he keeps melting in the Polynesian heat?

Rated PG. Moana will be in Australian cinemas from December 26.

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