• Review: Moana (2016)

    From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Mon Jan 2 00:46:33 2017
    MOANA (2016)
    A film review by David N. Butterworth
    Copyright 2016 David N. Butterworth

    *** (out of ****)

    Pocahontas: standing up to evil Governor Ratcliffe and his New World plunderers. Mulan: appropriating her infirm father's armor and battling
    the invading Hun army in his stead. Anna: bracing the Arctic elements to rescue her sister from an icy kingdom. And let's not forget bookish Belle
    and brave Merida and plucky Rapunzel and Lilo's big sister Nani and Helen
    Parr aka Elastigirl--each unafraid to face adversity head on, be it beast
    or baby-napper or badass superhero wannabe. And now Moana, sailing out on
    a daring South Sea mission to save her Polynesian people from blight and famine.
    Haven't we had enough of tough, outspoken, and intrepid Disney
    heroines already? What about the *guys*, for goodness sake?
    Well, the Disney he-males were never anything to write home about. Pinocchio? Pretty wooden I'd say. Aladdin? Insufferably
    two-dimensional. Dumbo? Dumb question. Even a hero as godlike as
    Hercules had his off days. But after Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella cornered the market on subservient, spineless, and
    scullery-centered heroines, it behooved Walt to put his sexist shop in
    order. Some might say the Disney Studios have overcompensated somewhat,
    but I doubt you'll hear any complaints from the myriad of young girls--and perhaps one or two of their brothers--inspired the world over by the
    fearless female faces that front the likes of "Brave" and "Frozen."
    "Moana" continues that tradition purposefully and persuasively, without skipping a beat.
    At 107 minutes, Ron Clements and John Musker's film is about half an
    hour longer than it needs to be, mostly due to a prolonged and Grandmother Willow-y prologue which establishes Moana's place in the world. However,
    once she journeys beyond the reef (a big no-no according to tribal
    mandate), things pick up considerably. There's excellent chemistry between Auli'i Cravalho, who voices the impetuous title teen, and Dwayne Johnson as Maui, the lively-tattooed demigod she hopes to persuade to return a sacred relic and thus prosperity to her island community. The obligatory show tunes--this time courtesy composer Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa'i, and "Hamilton"'s Lin-Manuel Miranda--are also suitably rousing. And there's a
    fun, goggle-eyed chicken sidekick on hand to provide the physical humor.
    The animation, of course, is exquisite--water must be among the
    hardest elements to animate yet the Disney magicians return to the sea time
    and again. And again, their attention to detail pays off: this is
    sparkling stuff.
    Getting back to that initial, unanswered question though... *Have* we
    had enough of tough, outspoken, and intrepid Disney heroines? Nope. Not
    yet. Not by a long shot.

    David N. Butterworth

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