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Movie Review: Moana, or Disney's First Non-Caucasian CGI Princess

Moana dreading any sort of sex scene with Maui.

Moana is the second Disney release this year, tailing Zootopia, the studio's first animated 2016 release way back in January. They've had a good year this year with two releases, compared to Pixar's lone release Finding Dory, which as a sequel does not stand up to Moana's original screenplay. But enough comparing. Is Moana as good as we hoped it would be? Just what makes a good Disney movie?

Great story
Disney has made efforts to be inclusive of different cultures since Pocahontas and Mulan, incorporating Native American and Chinese characters and stories, respectively, into its films. However, since the start of the "CG Renaissance"–that point in time when Disney shifted its animation medium from traditional 2D to computer-generated 3D–Disney’s princess movies have reverted back to Caucasian female leads with Tangled and Frozen. With Moana, however, Disney has expanded once more to include Polynesian folklore.

Another great thing about the story is that it doesn’t attempt to force any romantic angle. Sorry, fans, but there won’t be any demigod-on-mortal romance brewing here, despite that happening a lot in Greek and Roman mythology.

Great characters
The most memorable character here, of course, would be the title character Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), Disney’s first non-Caucasian CGI princess. She has no superpowers unlike Elsa, yet she is badass nonetheless. It’s also a big step in casting, as Cravalho is a relative unknown who got the part for her singing prowess and ethnic background.

The second best character here, hands down, would be the demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Aside from having animated tattoos and awesome shape-shifting powers, The Rock showcases his musical talents here. Who knew, right? Who actually knew that Dwayne Johnson could carry a tune? I mean, with that eyebrow-raising and all. Totally unexpected.

"What, you don't like my eyebrows?"

Among the non-human characters would have to be Tamatoa the giant crab, voiced by the funny Jemaine Clement, who is actually known for his singing abilities. But as he himself points out, his character would’ve probably been more memorable if he spoke with a Jamaican accent, a reference to another Disney crustacean who dwells under the sea.

All Disney princesses are known for their mostly non-human sidekicks, and this film is no different in that regard. The sidekick here is the stupid chicken Heihei, voiced by the great Alan Tudyk, which in my opinion is a total waste of Alan Tudyk, as Heihei only talks by squawking and clucking.

Great songs
No Disney movie is complete without the songs, and of course Moana prides itself in having the songwriting powerhouse of Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina (who also composed the score), and the great Lin-Manuel Miranda. There’s the glamorous “Shiny”, sung by Jemaine Clement; the damn catchy “You’re Welcome”, The Rock’s only song which he sings with surprisingly little effort; and of course Auli’i Cravalho’s “How Far I’ll Go”, which is this movie’s “Let It Go”. Miranda’s success with Hamilton will probably ensure that he will get more screen musicals thrown his way in the near future, and I do hope Disney signs him on for another animated musical.

Tamatoa can crush Sebastian in an underwater match any day.

Moana. USA. 2016.

Original rating: 7.8/10
Maui's tattoos: +.1
The Rock's singing voice: +0.1
Jemaine Clement: +0.1
Final rating: 8.1/10


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