Disney's latest offering is a story of an adventurous, tenacious, and compassionate 16-year-old, Moana. Her problem seems typical among teens her age–she is struggling to find her true self. She was torn between becoming the next leader of her village and her insatiable attraction to the sea and what is beyond it.
When the island befell a mysterious darkness that threatened their livelihood and survival, Moana set on a journey to the great unknown despite her father's wishes of her staying back. Describing Moana's journey, director John Musker said, "She is inspired to solve the problem of this world that has been haunting them and has made voyaging impossible. If she can face this problem that’s plagued them for a thousand years, perhaps voyaging could resume."
To save her village, she has to meet larger-than-life demigod Maui and convince him to accompany her on her journey. Quite a tough task when the guys she is supposed to ask is an overly-confident and at times narcissistic. But Moana, ever persistent, travelled together with Maui across the ocean and encountered huge monsters and impossible odds. In the end, Moana got through the arduous journey and discovered her real identity along the way.
Just a back story, the movie traces back to the culture and people of Oceania. The story, inspired in part by oral histories, is about a centuries-old tradition of this part of the world. The greatest navigators in the world masterfully navigated the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, around 3,000 years ago, their voyages stopped for a millennium–and though there are theories, no one knows exactly why.
This movie then tried to answer this mystery in between songs, dances, and visuals. Yes, it will be enjoyable for everyone–even adults. Also, Moana is a character both girls and boys will aspire to be. Strong-willed, resilient, and loving. What is especially likeable about her character is that it remained faithful to its tradition–respecting her ancestors and culture, but like most teenagers and young adults, she broke away from them so she can follow what she wants, regardless her gender and age.
Further, it is quite refreshing to root for a girl–not a relationship between her and her prince charming. The writers were able to show us a rich character, full of affection not for a significant other, but her family and community.
Aside from an engaging story line, the beauty of this movie also lies on the excellent animation. The graphics looked authentic and conveyed the emotions of the animated characters as humanly real as possible.
Oh, and get ready for some LSS-inducing original songs from Tony®-, Emmy®- and Grammy®-winning lyricist/composer (Broadway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning and multiple Tony-winning Hamilton) and singer, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The main theme How Far I’ll Go, You’re Welcome, Shiny and We Know the Way, are just some of the songs that will get stuck in your head. On a personal note, I tried to stop myself from singing along and shed a tear, even if the movie is not a tear-jerker type. The movie is just full of emotions!
Moana is an inspired movie–of rich traditions and culture, with a smart and spirited heroine to boot.
Featuring the voice of newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho as the voice of Moana, and Dwayne “The Rock” who lends his voice to demigod Maui. Temuera Morrison, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, Jemaine Clement, and Alan Tudyk complete the voice cast.
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and produced by Osnat Shurer, Moana sails into Malaysian theatres on 1 December.