Moana, the Disney film set to hit theaters soon, is a brilliant conundrum of a film, with its wonderful score and sometimes faulty storytelling devices. It’s definitely good, but I was unsure how fulfilled I felt once I left the theater.
Moana is the road trip of the Disney Princess nee future Chieftains movies. They story moves along the ocean from one set piece to another, from thrilling battles with evil coconuts to showdowns with lava gods, Moana is a movie filled with spectacle. Your love of this movie will probably vary with how well you like road trip films though. Moana is a solid film no doubt, but with the minor villains feeling more compelling than the big bad, I had trouble truly diving into this film. Additionally, making the ocean a character provides the movie with some of its best laughs, but it felt weird to have an entity that powerful constantly involved, when I truly wanted to see Moana overcome it all.
I appreciate the new groove Disney is in with its animated movies, preaching about the power of being a woman and the inner strength to overcome obstacles. However, I do feel that unlike Frozen, Disney’s last megahit musical, I felt that Moana too often repeats the same “I can do this-I can’t do this-I can do this” cycle and particularly nearing the 3rd act it felt as though the movie retreaded over previously covered ground. Can you truly be invested in a character’s growth if the movie puts powerful things at her aid and keeps going back to old insecurities? The answer is yes, but the mileage you get from this film will vary.
You’ll be hard pressed to remain down though when the tunes are carrying you through. From the showstopping “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” to the native music, Moana’s musical texture is enough to stitch its parts together in a really interesting whole.