‘Moana’: A spunky princess who entertains (IANS Movie Review, Rating: ***)

Film: “Moana”; Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker; Voices of: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, Oscar Kightley; Rating: ***

Disney’s latest offering “Moana”, which means the ocean in Polynesian and Maori languages, is the story of its 12th Princess in its Princess line. The animated musical-fantasy adventure film wraps up the Polynesian mythology — of a legendary evergreen and bountiful island — with its Princess’s story.

A millennium earlier, the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess was stolen by the shape-shifting demigod Maui in order to attempt to harness its power. But the lava demon Te Ka confronts him causing the heart to get lost in the ocean along with Maui’s magical fishhook.

The plot centres on Moana Waialiki, the strong-willed daughter of a Polynesian tribal Chieftain Tui, who, as a child, finds “the heart” of Te Fiti, when she is collecting shells on the sea-shore.

And ever since, Moana is fascinated by the ocean and is drawn towards it. Tui forbids Moana from venturing into the sea. But, when the fish in their reef becomes scarce and a blight strikes their island, Moana’s grandmother tells her that this is the result of Maui’s deeds. She also tells Moana that she is the chosen one to return Te Fiti’s heart. So, Moana takes on the quest to find Maui and make sure that he does the needful.

The narration is frequently amusing and melodious for most of its run time. While the first half hour of the film establishes the Polynesian environment beautifully, the major part of the film is Moana’s adventure in the open sea. The plot isn’t as compelling in the middle as it is in its climax, nevertheless, the graph never stagnates. What makes the film alluring is its simplicity in characterisation and narrative.

Unlike the other Disney Princesses, Moana, who takes control of her own destiny and does not depend on a Prince charming to bail her out, is a simple, spunky and strong character that is remarkably real. How she holds her own against the ultra-macho Maui and other rivals, including an army of coconut pirates, and Te Ka, a super natural beast with a volcanic temper, is worth a watch.

Humour, which seems forced, is strewn in, in the form of Heihei — a dumb rooster and Pua a pet pig. Both animals were brought to the Pacific islands by the first Polynesians, thus linking the story to historical evidence.

The voices lent by the ace cast befit the characters aptly. The tenor in the voices of Auli’i Cravalho as Moana, Dwayne Johnson as Maui, Rachel House as Grandma Tala, and Temuera Morrison as Chief Tui are dynamic and vibrant. They bring the characters to life.

On the visual front, the locales are photo-realistic and the animations along with the 3D effects are appealing. Apart from the visuals, it’s the sound design and the eight songs composed by Mark Mancina that seamlessly integrate into the narrative that make the film stand apart.

Overall, “Moana” is a fun-filled film that has all the elements of a great entertainer.

–IANS

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