Movie Review: Moana is enjoyable but becoming standard Walt Disney template

Walt Disney’s 2016 year end offering Moana has already grossed 250 USD million and on way to become a mega hit. Touring the amazingly beautiful islands of Philippines, we decide to continue our trend of watching a movie while vacationing. Since the story of Moana is all about saving mesmerizing islands, we booked tickets to watch her journey. Halls in Manila are very spacious, have washrooms inside each screening hall and massive leg space between seats.

The lush green-blue sea waters, the tranquil islands, the glossy greenery, the bamboo balancing boats and the handsome rocks we witnessed at Palawan Islands are all part of Moana’s journey. Moana has to retrieve the ‘heart’ of the islands and return to the original stealer Maoi, so that the latter can put it back in its rightful place and let the islands survive forever. The ocean chose Moana to undertake this task and our feisty protagonist has extreme confidence of taking on the challenge, despite protests from her father.

Maoi (and his interactive tattoos) are no match to Moana’s grit and once he realises that Moana has support of the ocean, it’s one way traffic. Director Ron Clements & John Musker put in massively creative creatures – an unintelligent rooster, coconut shelled pirates – each of whom are scene stealers. The fight sequence with the coconut shelled pirates light up the first half, post which the story takes shape of a ‘Life of Pi’-esque. Moana & Maoi need to survive on a boat, resolve all their differences and complete their mission.

While the movie is running well at box office and my own daughter went for a second show, I felt the ‘musical’ format made it a tad slow and too simplistic. It may have helped had Moana’s Father (and villagers) showed some urgency in Moana missing, went on to find them and give a better climax. How a tiny Moana conquers over a massively gigantic fire spewing giant looked bit unrealistic.

Moana is riding on the mega hit Frozen format and her dolls are out in Manila costing 50$USD each! That’s some global model to mint money from character obsessed kids and their fat purse parents. Zootopia followed that format and was massive success and Disney maybe stretching their luck time and again with same formula of frail feminine characters conquering the world. The lush green animation, the creative creatures and the 2016 Disney hits Finding Dory, The Jungle Book and Zootopia saves the day. Zootopia undoubtedly was best of the bunch in terms of content and repeat viewing value.

Rating: 3.25/5

My favourite character: The unintelligent rooster, Hei Hei!

My big takeaway message: A person with no heart is a devil.

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