Disney has, of late, faced criticism of depicting stick-thin princess that hold (mostly) a white-centric worldview. Most of its movies reinforce stereotypes. Fortunately, “Moana” isn’t one of those films.
“Moana” tells the story of the daughter of a Pacific Islands chieftain named Moana (voiced by Hawaiian actress Auli’i Cravalho). Ever since she was a child, the fiery princess wanted to venture out from her idyllic island and into the sea. However, her father forbids her to leave. It is only when her island is threatened that Moana’s grandmother reveals that she comes from a long life of ancestors who loved sailing and exploring the ocean. Add to that, Moana means water or ocean in Maori.
This revelation and the need to protect her home coaxes Moana and her trusty sidekick, a dumb chicken named Heihei (voiced by Alan Tudyk), to take on a quest. During her adventure, she meets demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a shapeshifter who has lost his magic fishhook.
The best part of the plot? Moana has no love interest whatsoever. She makes her own destiny. Variety’s Peter Debruge states in his review that “Moana’s” cultural aspect – the movie is inspired by Polynesian mythology and culture – and the idea of a female explorer is a welcome change from Disney’s earlier lineups. The heroine also boasts a healthier, more realistic physique.
Although the music isn’t in the same league as “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” “Moana” does a good job of blending traditional Polynesian rhythms with musical theater ballads, according to Entertainment Weekly’s Devan Coggan. The Hollywood Reporter notes that songs “You’re Welcome” and “How Far I’ll Go” are catchy.
In the end, “Moana” delivers a powerful message that is especially useful to youngsters in today’s age. Hats off to Disney for at least embracing diverse cultures and trying to give the film an authentic Hawaiian touch.
“Moana” hits theatres on Nov. 23.