Moana: A Review

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Welp, Moana has been out since 23 November and I’m just seeing it (life of a parent, amirite?). Not only have I seen it, I’ve seen it twice. Cause it’s that good.

Now, I’ve always been a fan of Disney. I grew up on Aladdin, Mulan, Beauty & the Beast (EEE! March 17 can’t come fast enough), and The Little Mermaid. I spent my childhood singing the songs and dreaming of a life of adventure and love, just like the Disney Princesses.

But as I got older, I saw some of the disappointing flaws that plague the Disney line. You know what I’m talking about. The white-washing, the reinforced gender roles, and some questionable choices about teenage weddings. So I was 100% on board with a new Disney movie with a non-white main character, one who didn’t have a love interest. Now as someone who adores a good love story, I thought I’d be a little disappointed.

I was not. Not even a little.

Moana is the story of a Pacific island chieftain’s daughter–not a princess, the main character explicitly states–who isn’t content with the life that has been planned for her. Even though her expected role is island life governing a village, she is suddenly thrust into an adventure that takes her out into the open ocean. While sometimes she reacts to the story, Moana drives her own life. She is a heroine, not a prize. Despite the males that constantly underestimate her, Moana excels.

And I love it for that. She isn’t competing with another woman for love, she isn’t pitted against some evil witch, and she’s not a side character for some male protagonist’s story. She is her own. It’s wonderful.

And that isn’t the only great thing about this movie. Have you heard the music? Pairing traditional music for the Pacific islands with Disney’s full orchestra, there is a little something for everyone. How Far I’ll Go” rivals Frozen‘s “Let It Go” as an inspirational ballad. Jemaine Clement cameos for a creepy song about exterior beauty in “Shiny.” And Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson injects the perfect amount of smugness into “You’re Welcome,” which constantly reminded me of this:

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And as much as I am ignorant in other cultures, I did notice some hat tips towards Pacific island culture. Like the Haka War Dance and the islanders’ tattoos. While many consider this minor, these small gestures 1) teach those of us who don’t know about these things and 2) gives representation to those who belong to those cultures. We white, middle-class, Christian folk take for granted that we see ourselves everywhere. For our Canadian friends who don’t belong in that same grouping, I imagine that it’s refreshing to see themselves for once.

I can’t pretend that this movie doesn’t have its problematic moments, though I will need to see it at least three more times to really go through all its messages. Oh dang.

Overall, though, I’d definitely see it if I were you. It’s funny, it’s beautiful, and it’s got Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Three 5 star reasons if there ever were any.

 

Have you seen it? What’d you think? Let me know!

 

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