‘Moana’ Rides A Familiar Wave, For the Better

Disney’s ‘Moana’ is as much of a visual spectacle as it is emotional, using old Disney rhetoric to create a fresh perspective on the hero’s journey.

‘Moana’ stands triumphantly like a breath of fresh air in a time where we need her most.

Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

Sometimes, making waves holds more depth than riding them. Just ask Moana. This powerful contender in the Disney catalog is visually and spiritually stunning, with its footing in a universe too prodigious for even two measly dimensions. Nonetheless, this friendly fantasy withstands the barriers of its predecessors by doing exactly what you would not expect: by tearing down those very same barriers.

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is on the verge of chief-hood, inheriting the island of Te Fiti off her chieftain father’s hands. However, when fishing becomes strained and crops begin to die, Moana learns of her ancestor’s voyageur ways and discovers the curse of Te Fiti’s missing heart. Thus, with the future of her tribe on her shoulders, she must venture “beyond the reef” to retrieve the demigod responsible: the egotistical teddy bear that is Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

Disney’s newest animated adventure is as strong and independent as the Polynesian heroine herself. Unlike others in her category (Frozen and Tangled), Moana keeps its head above water by throwing classic archetypes into the riptide. Throughout the journey, we see a young, innovative female that accepts the liability of her world’s imminent fate, using her wit and candor to win over the help of an insecure demigod. The family feature throws role-reversals to the wind, leaving its conscious audience with wide eyes and hope as abundant as the sea.

Moana felt similar to other Disney movies, but I guess it had a bit of an edge,” said Vincent Zang, 23. “There’s some modern-day issues being discussed, and the animation didn’t look half bad itself. Think of it as a Hawaiian Cinderella.”

Indeed, some might claim it as “familiar” or “overdone.” However, despite all odds, directors Ron Clements and John Musker have managed to perfectly blend the wildly limitless world of animation with the deep and intrinsic value of the human heart. And, rather than dumbing down the formula, Moana adds a fresh layer to that very same equation. In other words, don’t let the “familiar” fool you: there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Moana is now playing in movie theaters worldwide! Some more local venues include AMC Clifton Commons, AMC Essex Greens in West Orange and even Bow Tie Bellevue Cinemas in the heart of Upper Montclair. For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com and start planning your trip to the movie theater today.

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