My Rating: 4 stars
I enjoyed this movie, even with how simple and formulaic it is. Perhaps it was the catchy music. Or, maybe it was fun to see a culture other than Western Europe’s being explored in a fairy tale. But possibly, I just have a soft spot in my heart for Disney movies in all their cheesy, predictable glory. I guess it’s a nostalgia thing. Because, even though a big deal was made over this being a new, diverse direction for the studio to go in, it’s still firmly entrenched in the Disney Princess franchise, with all its rules, formulae, and aesthetics.
Moana is a smart, brave, Hawaiian princess, and it’s up to her (and a quirky animal sidekick) to go on an adventure that will save her kingdom. There isn’t much new material here. We’re all familiar with the bones of this story. Just the details are different. But, it’s a popular formula. And, princess merchandise is profitable. So, Disney is probably going to keep cranking these princess movies out for as long as fussy little girls have the strength and will to demand hot, unbreathable, polyester knockoffs of their iconic gowns. I can’t say that I would have been any different from these demanding, little lasses, had these dresses been for sale when I was little. So, I find the whole spectacle to be very amusing and relatable. But, I digress. This movie is a heartwarming tale of a very brave girl who must balance her personal desires for freedom with the role that’s expected of her as the heir to her nation’s throne. It’s a hard choice to make. But, as disaster threatens her island nation, her role becomes clearer.
This is a very cute, very standard Disney story featuring female empowerment and self-actualization. But, it’s a more modern version. Moana doesn’t have to prove to anyone in the story that she’s just as good as a boy. That’s the kind of thing that we would have seen in a movie from ten years ago. In fact, her gender is never an issue at all, nor is it even really mentioned. And, I found that to be very refreshing and way more inspirational than those older tales of “empowerment”. We just get to enjoy a very capable protagonist learning, growing, and accomplishing very exciting feats. And, of course there’s a little bit of magic to help her on her journey. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to see this one if I weren’t already into Disney movies. But, it’s one of the better examples in the genre that I’ve seen. So, go ahead and watch this one if you’re in the mood for something heartwarming and unchallenging.