December 27, 2016

Moana (2016)

Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson

[I'm not going to lead with how hot The Rock is. I'm not going to lead with how hot The Rock is.]

The Rock is so hot.

People's Sexiest Man Alive, in fact.

So it is slightly disappointing to see his on-screen persona so unattractive (see below), but that's probably my biggest complaint about the movie. At least Maui has the cool tattoos like The Rock.

Moana is a beautiful story, told with a real sense of authenticity to the Polynesian people. The characters look accurate, the music throughout has the island feel, the story references both folklore and the actual history of the Polynesian people, and the main characters are actually voiced by islanders. So even before we delve into the specifics of the movie, it gets an A for effort. One of the favorite things about the movie is being able to hear hear the slight accent of Auli'i Cravalho come through when she pronounces certain words. It's the the little things.

Don't worry, I'm not going to turn this post into a dissertation on the importance of representation in media, but I will just say I teared up a bit thinking about how excited children of Pacific Island descent must have felt seeing their heritage shown accurately and positively for such a wide audience. I certainly remember the impact on my life as a kid just seeing the trailer for Mulan before it was released.

A lot was made about Moana lacking a romantic storyline and a Prince Charming, so to speak, to which I say, doesn't anyone remember Brave? But Moana takes the strong, female independent spirit a step further by focusing not on familial relationships, but solely within herself--her confidence, ability, and resolve to complete a mission she believes vital to save her people. To me, it's this generation's Mulan. Or a female Percy Jackson, but without all the extra characters.

It's difficult not to go on and on about all the details Disney got right about this movie because it is so important considering their history of being a bit insensitive about these things, but I also don't want to give anyone the impression that this movie is one big hyped-up PC fest. The story itself is very good, as is the music. It starts out a bit slow, with the unfolding of folklore tales and setting the stage for a young Moana who yearns for a bigger life (not unlike many of her Disney princess counterparts), but quickly picks up with more catchy songs and a lot of humor, courtesy of her very, very stupid chicken Heihei and Maui (the Rock), who sings my favorite song of the movie. The format is very reminiscent of the "classic" Disney movies with its soft animation, female heroine, and catchy soundtrack. I hope it signals a return to these types of movies from Disney in the future.

In a way, the entire thing feels less like an actual movie and more like the beautiful manifestation of a storybook. There's a sort of enveloping warmth created that makes you feel as though you are watching the legacy unfold in front of your eyes as someone tells you a story. It's quite magical.

The only lingering question I had at the end was...

Final word: Will Moana or Zootopia take home the Oscar?

But seriously, all that money spent on marketing this movie and they couldn't find a distributor who could create a better likeness of her? I personally took this photo at Target.

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