2016 Movie Reviews: Moana

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So, I haven’t been doing a lot of reviews lately. One reason for that is because I’ve been writing some fanfiction for Zootopia. (you can read it here) Now, because Zootopia was so incredible, that put a lot of pressure on Moana.

I’m gonna start out by saying that the story is the weakest element. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen from Disney before, in terms of a lot of their typical storytelling tropes. It does play around with a few cliches to try and seem fresh, and the humor can be very funny at times, but there’s just something about this script that feels a little stale.

But script aside, this film looks phenomenal. It’s amazing how Disney keeps upping their game in the animation department. Everything looks great, from the characters to the scenery and especially the water. The more fantastical elements of the story are elevated through some really inspiring visuals and great cinematography.

The big highlight for most people is the music by Lin Manuel Miranda. Now, I haven’t seen Hamilton yet. (please don’t kill me) But I do have tickets. (please don’t kill me trying to get them) So, as a little sneak preview to Hamilton, I must admit these songs are very good. “How Far I’ll Go” is the one that will make a play for an Oscar, while “You’re Welcome” is the song everybody hums coming out of the theatre, and “Where You Are” is a pitch-perfect opening number.

But the one thing that absolutely blew me away was Auli’i Cravalho’s performance as Moana. Disney took a huge gamble by casting a then-14 year old girl from Hawaii with no prior acting experience. And she just knocks it out of the park. She nails the comedic moments, she excels at the dramatic moments, and her singing is a truly magnificent feat. It’s performances like this that make me wish the Academy could be more open to vocal work.

Despite the somewhat lackluster script, I am very glad I saw Moana. It looks amazing and sounds amazing, so you definitely wouldn’t be wasting any time by seeing it. If you like Disney, then you’ll definitely like this. It doesn’t take a lot of risks, but it’s an enjoyable film headlined with great songs and a stunning vocal performance.

****1/2 (Because I’m a sucker for Disney.)

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