If you're gonna go see Moana, I have one thing to say to you: See it in 3D. You won't be disappointed. I'm actually kicking myself because I didn't see it in 3D, but I can tell you it's will worth the extra few bucks. I'm actually shocked that it wasn't available in Imax at my location. Going into the theater, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew this would carry on the Disney Princess-esque tradition, but I literally had no idea what to expect as far as story or whatnot. And I gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised on multiple levels, in just so many ways. I've not seen too many of the newer Disney Princess films. I've seen Tangled, but skipped Frozen. It needs to be said that Disney is getting my attention again, and that more and more, I'm giving these films with a more fairy-tale take to their stories, more respect than I've given them in the past.
Right out the gates, this film transports you into this world, filled with gods, monsters, spirits, and legends, and it's actually quite exciting. It's not often you see someone battling a giant lava monster in a Disney movie, in the first five minutes. It's all very fun. And I gotta say it's really cool to see Disney Animation Studios adapting so many traits that made Pixar so fun to watch not so long ago (before they kinda began to...get mediocre). There's coherent storytelling, pleasant humor, and I gotta say, despite my shaky ground with musicals, this one did have its fair share of surprisingly strong musical numbers. In fact, as I'm writing this, the song "How Far I'll Go" is stuck in my head. A lot of it is really well done, and very enjoyable. And I gotta say that the musical score by Mark Mancina? Absolutely gorgeous. Those who go out of their way to get this film's soundtrack will have plenty to enjoy.
The film surprisingly draws strength from its lack of too many characters. In fact, as the credits rolled, I found myself surprised that the cast was as small as it was. This isn't a bad thing, as the film does a great job of developing our two main leads in the Chieftain's Daughter, Moana, and the Demigod, Maui. The characters are fun, funny, charming, likable, easily some of the best of any of these kinds of films I've seen. And that's a good thing too, because there are times that they literally feel like the only people in this movie. We see Moana's family, from her overprotective father, her wise yet crazy grandmother, and her...mother...who's there I guess (no seriously, the mother does nothing in this film), and that's really about it. We don't really know too much about her tribe she's supposed to eventually lead, we don't have a best friend or an exact enemy, and despite it all, the film pulls through.
Now I will say that some of the storytelling aspects are pretty...stretched beyond my disbelief. I won't spoil anything but there is one part in the beginning of the movie that honestly just kinda comes out of nowhere. There is no hint that it'll happen, the film just turns the page, and moves on. No buildup. And despite a good amount of these tunes being trait strong, there are plenty that I didn't care for. Like the song this giant crab sings halfway through the film. I can't remember his name. He's literally like Smaug from the Hobbit, if he were a giant crab. But I guess he was such a hit that he deserved his own post-credit scene where he almost kinda mocks how his musical number was as forgettable as it was. And while not all of it is forgettable, a lot of it does come out of nowhere. Some of the transitions from story to music seemed very sudden and not exactly fitting. But these relatively few faults can be overlooked, because it needs to be said that the journey you go on in this film can be breathtaking.
And I gotta devote an entire paragraph to this film's absolutely stunning animation. I honestly don't think Disney has looked this gorgeous in a very long time. I wasn't joking when I said go see it in 3D. The lighting of this film can be absolutely phenomenal, and the water, which is everywhere in this film looks practically flawless. The way the water moves, how it's influenced by the spirits in this film, how it looks both above and below, is just amazing to look at. Even small things, from hair on the characters, to animation on the ships, to the action in this film, to the environments, it is all just a beauty to behold. Absolutely stunning at times. If I scored movies based on look alone, this film would be near perfect, but this film does have a lot more going for it than its animation, and I'm very happy to say that.
Moana earns a solid three and a half star rating out of four for me. A wonderful experience, incredible journey, and just very pleasant surprise honestly. I had more fun than I thought I would. It's been a good year for Disney. While the film has its problems, they're just too few and far between for me to really get worked up about it, especially when there is just so much more to look into with this film. I'm willing to bet that those who aren't even that big on the Disney Princess-esque (I'm not sure if I wanna call this one), will be entertained by this. Can certain musical numbers be annoying? Sure. Are some characters forgettable, or just pulling tropes we've seen one too many times with Disney? Yeah. But there's plenty of new things here to keep your attention as well.
Feel free to request any film you'd like me to review in the future. Leave a comment down below annotating your own thoughts on the movie, and as always, thanks for reading.
Final Verdict: 3.5/4