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Moana (2016) ****

Moana (2016) ****

Disney’s 56th animated feature, Moana, was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker; co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, to a screenplay by Jared Bush. The story on which the final screenplay was based, went through multiple versions and various writers. The film’ music was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina. Voice cast includes Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger and Alan Tudyk.
A 3D computer-animated musical-adventure, Moana is the tale of a daughter to a Polynesian tribe chief. As the chief’s only daughter, and the one to inherit his seat, she is expected to stay put and avoid taking risks. Yet, when disaster threatens her island, she fearlessly embarks upon a journey to right a wrong done to an ancient goddess. The story follows Moana from early childhood to becoming a young woman fulfilling her destiny. Accompanying her on the journey, and not much by his own choice, is a whimsical legendary demigod named Maui.
Moana is beautifully animated. The film enjoys a lovely musical score as well as engaging performances. The filmmakers are able to walk a thin line, bordering the corny and kitschy but hardly ever crossing over. What may be refreshing about Moana with respect to many previous Disney films, is that there is no romance, nor, as the main character explicitly expresses in her own words, any princesses. Hats off to the writers for poking fun at the formulated Disney princess plots of films past.
Moana is a coming of age tale; a fable conveying respect for nature and appreciation for tradition. And while some Polynesians scholars were critical of the story tweaking mythological facts, well, for one, Disney was never big on mythological accuracy. But more so, I would give the filmmakers credit for bringing into the limelight an exotic culture that many in the world today hardly ever heard of. It may be well worth the price of some inaccuracy.
Moana is well-made, entertaining and engaging, and while it may not change your life, it is a wonderful choice for fun, uplifting film at a time when we can all use some cheering up.

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