The Bock’s Office: Myth, music make ‘Moana’ memorable Disney outing
A few years ago, the world learned to enjoy the snow and ice in a new way with “Frozen.” Not that there was much difficulty of losing the love for it, but the tropics gets the same adoring treatment in “Moana.”
If you go…
“Moana,” rated PG
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 113 minutes
Starring the voices of: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House and Jemaine Clement
Life on the island of Motunui has plenty to offer for all its residents, from sun and surf to a long history of prosperity.
There’s only one rule — no one can ever leave.
And, that’s the one thing desired more than anything by a young woman named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), who has spent her entire life longing to explore the ocean and all it holds, much to the dissatisfaction of her father (Temuera Morrison), the society’s chief, who expects her to carry on his legacy of leadership.
Neither the father nor daughter have put much stock into the stories told by Moana’s grandmother (Rachel House) about their people’s origins, hard-to-believe tales of gods, and goddesses, heroes and monsters. Yet, it appears the legends are truer than they thought, as an ancient curse begins to afflict their island, drying up crops and limiting the fishing.
Moana soon learns of a relic lost for years that served as the heart of a deity and must be returned. She must track down the one who stole it, the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and travel to the scene of the crime to set things right.
Now, if only she could sail…
Cravalho may not be a name in the entertainment industry just yet, but the novice actress and singer certainly has as many opportunities as there are fish in the sea, making a splash in her debut. With a good head and even greater heart, Moana fits right in with the bolder, braver ranks of the Disney Princesses.
Seriously, though, don’t call her princess.
It’s hard to fathom it took this long for a studio to find such a tailor-made role for The Rock, but the wait is finally over, the action hero perfection personified as Maui, a shape-shifter and all-around superstar of Oceanic folklore who’s been in exile for a millennium but takes no time signing autographs.
Johnson’s animated likeness may not have as much muscle tone as his voice actor, but he has far more tattoos of his exploits, and what’s more, they come alive as he recounts his great deeds, also serving as a makeshift Jiminy Cricket for when he’s being a jerk, which is a little too often.
Jemaine Clement steals the show midway through as a massive crab named Tamatoa, whose obsession with shiny trinkets includes Maui’s legendary enchanted fishhook, the key to his powers, so no getting around him as our duo continues their journey.
As for friendlier animals, you might expect Moana’s cuddly pet pig Pua to figure in more, but it’s a rooster named Heihei (Alan Tudyk) who’s along for the ride, a truly dumb cluck who nearly gets killed every five minutes and whose only talent is eating rocks, spitting them up and repeating.
And, somehow, that comes in handier than you’d expect.
Elsa had control over ice, and though her name means “ocean,” Moana doesn’t have water at her beck and call so much as it’s in tune with her — minus her first time in a canoe, which almost proves fatal — in this adventure, which plays somewhat like a Disney highlight reel of “Frozen,” “Hercules” and “The Little Mermaid.”
The songs by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda aren’t likely to surpass the explosive popularity of “Let It Go,” yet Moana’s showstopper “How Far I’ll Go” comes close, and Maui’s “You’re Welcome” proves hilarious as a three-minute, chauvinistic humblebrag from a guy who claims he’s responsible for bringing mankind the sun, waves and coconuts.
But, no big deal, dudes…
If you’re noticing some similarities between the big man and every other mythical figure from Prometheus to Loki to Achilles, don’t fret — all the stories of the world tend to influence each other.
That’s what the greatest strength is in this celebration of the often overlooked Polynesian culture, which in itself is a multitude of South Pacific islands, tribes and traditions, the creators doing their best to involve as many as possible, Hawaiian, Samoan and Maori among them.
“Moana” doesn’t stray too far from the time-honored course Disney has charted by now, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or accessible, especially to young girls and those who appreciate top-notch animation. Not for nothing, but it’s also heartening to know that the majority of the voice cast has cultural ties to the material.
Glad to know “Aloha” wasn’t the best Hollywood could do.
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