Monday, April 10, 2017
In this case it's the title character, who from a very young age feels a call to set sail and explore the ocean. She is warned by her father never to go beyond the reef--it's kind of the like the worried father in The Croods--but of course she will, once their paradise starts going bad. She will team up with a demi-god, Maui (an actual Polynesian deity, which is I guess where the Hawaiian island gets its name) who is a narcissist and part-time coward, to save their world.
All this is well and good and if I never saw another Disney film I would be fine with it, but couldn't the many writes come up with another plot? It's strictly Joseph Campbell stuff, the hero's journey, but with that treacly "be yourself" crap that we've been hearing for years. The Disney writers probably have the words "Follow Your Destiny" in huge letters in their writing room. This makes the character arcs predictable and boring. There are absolutely no surprises in this story.
That's too bad, because the depiction of Pacific islands is beautiful. There is some clever stuff, particularly with Maui's tattoos--one of whom acts as a sort of conscience, a la Jiminy Cricket. We are missing the standard sidekick, unless you count a very stupid chicken, and the villains are a bunch of hostile coconuts and a lava monster that is nicely rendered.
The voice talent is fine also. Kudos especially to Auli'i Cravalho, the teenager who speaks and sings Moana. Dwayne Johnson, who voices Maui, is a fine wise cracker, and there's a nice turn by Jermaine Clement as a greedy giant crab.
But none of this adds up to anything with such a weak, manufactured story.