Moana (2016)

No matter how old you are, if it’s the winter of 2016 and you want to see a movie with a spellbinding score, beautiful animation, and a wonderfully badass female protagonist, Moana is probably the film for you.

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The newest story to proudly carry the Disney Princess name, Moana is the story of the intrepid daughter of a chief in a Polynesian tribe, who sets sail to find the demigod Maui, return the heart of an ancient goddess to its rightful place, and save her island from a devastating affliction. Between our decidedly awesome, strong-willed heroine, and the task that stretches out before her, Moana was bound to be an adventure from beginning to end. I’m quite pleased that Disney is continuing to put less and less emphasis on romance in the lives of their princesses. The brand has come a long way since Snow White in that respect. I love that Moana is going to shape some childhoods in the same way that The Little Mermaid and Mulan affected mine.

I definitely squealed a little when I heard that Hamilton playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda had been working on Moana (and a little more when I heard his voice in the dazzlingly catchy adventuring number “We Know The Way”); his contributions definitely brought a bit more of a Broadway vibe to the soundtrack, in contrast with the second-most recent Disney princess success, Frozen’s more conventional musical numbers. Remaining true to the movie’s Polynesian culture and setting, Miranda collaborated with Opetaia Foa’i, founder of the South Pacific fusion band Te Vaka, resulting in an impressive blend of Broadway tunes, pop music, and traditional South Pacific beats and Tokelauan-language lyrics (correct me if I’m wrong here). From the well-executed I-Want song, “How Far I’ll Go” (performed by the outstanding Auli’i Cravalho, in her voice-acting debut, no less) to the chilling minor-villain number “Shiny”, every song differed slightly in style, and each had its own unique flair. Needless to say, I left the theater singing.

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GRADE: A

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