I remember a time when a Disney film, always entertaining, was often sentimental, schmaltzy, lacking a certain something. Oh, the stories were good in themselves as were the animations but it wasn't until around 'The Jungle Book' era, and the films released during that period, that Disney found that certain something and used it to maximum effect. May years later, as my children were growing up, Disney raised that certain something a notch higher. With 'Alladin,' 'The Lion King,' and films that followed they had honed their craft to what seemed perfect pitch. That certain something, by the way, was humour.
Following the release of 'Frozen,' and it has to be said this was no sudden innovation but a gradual evolution, another layer of enjoyment, of meaning has been added. That layer has given the film a depth of interpretation that adds subtly to the story but in no way detracts or distracts from the overall plot.
'Moana' is a fantastic film. It is a fantastic film in the way it appeals to a family audience. It has some terrific songs sung by the wonderfully gifted voice of sixteen-year-old Auli'i Cravalho but beyond that, deeper within the tale, are a series of, not sub-plots as such, but, as I said before, layers of meaning.
Yes, it is fun filled and works well on that basis but the film makes points about family, about community, about society on local and a global level but most importantly of al,l as far as I am concerned, it is about how humankind must not forget who we are, where we come from and to who we must repay a great debt - Mother Nature. This film has a deep sense of spirituality at its core, a spirituality that concerns its self with those things I mentioned but also the environment.
The character of Moana, a feisty Princess who seeks, as do all the young, to challenge the old ways of their parents, is captured admirably well but the artists and by the young Auli'i. Her defiance of her father,with, it has to be said a great deal of help from her grandmother, will have more than just this viewer recalling their youth. The relationship between Moana and demi-God Maui is a brittle and angsty and sometimes sarcastic as you could wish for. The manner in which their relationship grows is captivating in itself.
Both Squid and myself were mesmerized. We laughed, we cried (well, I did anyway), we soaked up all the great lines and were amazed at the songs.
Disney is not Studio Ghibli. It does not go in for the sort of animation the Japanese studio are renowned for but why should it when what it makes and has been now for a number of years, is family entertainment with a soul. Great film.
Squid gives it FIVE stars..
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.