PG. Disney Animation Studios.
Grandma Tala tells the story of a mischievous demi-god called Maui. Using his magical fishhook, he stole the heart stone from the island goddess Te Fiti to gain the power of creation. Maui used it to make an environment for humans but without the heart in its rightfulness place the fire spirit Te Ka was able to spread decay throughout the world that would one day consume all life. The only hope for humans is if the long lost Maui is found and made to restore the heart.
The village children on the island of Pacific island of Motunui are horrified by the tale but little Moana, daughter of the chief, Tui, and granddaughter of Tala is fascinated, as she is by the sea. In a brief unguarded moment she toddles into a space on the beach made by waves. One presents her with a glowing green stone that she drops when her father hurries to take her back inland.
As Moana grows up her father constantly reminds her that the tribe always stays within the reef. They have no need to venture further because the island fulfils all of their needs. Moana accepts her father’s loving training to be his successor but her eyes are ever drawn to the bay where sometimes Grandma dances with the waves.
The day comes when blight hits the island and the fish vanish. To Moana the solution to fish further afield is obvious but her father insists they ‘stay safe’. Grandma explains that it was only after a tragic sailing accident that Tui banned extra-reef activities. With the island facing starvation, Grandma reveals the secret of their people’s adventurous, joyful, sea faring past. Grandma also presents Moana with the green stone the sea gave her that day long ago: the heart of Te Fiti. Moana is drawn to a long hidden boat and sets sail on a mission to find Maui and take him to return the heart of Te Fiti, thus renewing the island’s life force and saving her people.
Moana is both helped and hampered by a witless stowaway chicken whose only party trick is mistaking stones for food. Her principle challenge is that she does not know how to sail. Through storm, fatigue and following the fish hook constellation as directed by her grandmother Moana finds Maui. He is an arrogant, lively demi-god with interactive tattoos and a complete disregard for Moana, her people, her problem or her safety. However, Moana has the ocean on her side and gradually the two learn to co-operate.
Moana shows Maui that she is invaluable in a crisis: rope-swinging, climbing, jumping, and resourceful. Moana uses diplomacy to persuade Maui to teach her how to become a wayfinder. Together they outwit pirates and venture into the dangerous depths to wrest Maui’s magic hook from the huge bling-loving crab king, battle with He-Ka, and bruised, stunned at weaponless receive a revelation. Finally there is a reconciliation that delivers the island worlds.
Moana will instantly take the place of favourite Disney animation female lead in the hearts of many. Moana is adorable, spirited, mature for her age, tactful, courageous, independent and non-Barbie shaped. There is no romance, but rather love of family, friends, people, nature and the sea.
Cast and Crew
Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho is enchanting and melodic, voicing the lead, and Dwayne Johnson hits all the right notes balancing between mindlessly conceited and loveable as Maui. Look out for Nicole Scherzinger as Moana’s mother. Moana flags up a technical breakthrough with a department just for creating the remarkable hair especially of the two main characters.
The film is an enthralling introduction to Pacific Island culture. ‘Moana’ means ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian and is the name of the royal house of Hawaii. You may be inspired to explore a new hobby before the closing credits roll. In fact, sailing venues will likely find a rise in student numbers this year. In more ways that one, Moana touches the explorer in us all, the urge to venture beyond the safe and familiar, to explore our identity, to ‘bang the drum, and find out!’
This is a feel-better film. It is visually appealing, distracting, engaging, fantastical and hopeful. It may a little too ebullient in places for someone near the bottom of the emotional ladder but from bored, apathetic or pessimistic Moana may help raise you up to at least the possibility of life taking an up-turn.
Chartreuse is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and promotional videographer. She has written a feel-better film review column for Heath & Happiness Magazine, and is the owner of Heypressto. Chartreuse’ greatest inspiration is Abraham-Hicks. Her favourite quote is ‘You can be, do or have anything you want’.