The artist formerly known as "The Rock" is now a singer. Yes, Dwayne Johnson is in a Disney musical. We knew he could act, he was after all, a professional wrestler (...smile...), but sing? He took this role to highlight his own personal background...the Pacific Islands. His Samoan culture embraces the myth that is illustrated. They have gone to great lengths to make what is depicted here as authentic as possible: the music, the dancing, the homes, the clothing and the lifestyle.
A committee of directors takes us on a PG-rated animated adventure that starts with a catchy, rhythmic opening number. The story is about a young girl who tries to navigate her way to a mythical island to save her tribe. Her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui hijacks her boat but eventually gives her some much-needed sailing help. He wants to retrieve s magic fishhook so he can be a shape-shifter again. He lost it because of some misbehavior in the past and he hopes Moana will help him steal it back.
Here are some of the voices for this animated fantasy:
- * Auli'i Cravalho in her film debut, is Moana, smart and stubborn, determined to go beyond the reef, something she has been told all her life is impossible. She has more optimism than skill, but sets out just the same, over everyone's objections but her grandmother's. I was happy to see that she learned some lessons along the way and has to be much more determined than she expected.
- * Dwayne Johnson ("Central Intelligence") is Maui, rambunctious and not overly bright. Truth in Advertising? Maui has a LOT of hair, Johnson shaves his head.. Maui has a sentient tattoo that functions as his conscience..,sort of a Jiminy Cricket. Johnson has tattoos. .hmmm... Maui's first song is a sarcastic "You're Welcome" as he responds to all of the Thank Yous he feels he deserves for the many gifts he has given to ungrateful humans.
- * Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople") is Gramma Tala, proud of her little charge, but a bit dotty. She says it's her JOB to be dotty. She promises to come back as a manta ray when she dies.
- * Temuera Morrison ("Star Wars") is Chief Tui, the wonderful voice of the tribe, rejoicing, celebrating and honoring the abundant harvest and the honors bestowed upon his daughter, Moana.
Throughout this colorful, lilting musical, our focus is on a girl who has been convinced that she is the "Chosen One," who can sail to that forbidden island, replace a stolen stone and restore a life of plenty for mankind. Of course she learns that is isn't quite so simple... We watch her grow, one lesson at a time.
I want to talk about two things:
- Auli'i Cravalho is a FIND. Moana's singing voice is glorious, her diction is impeccable and I understood every single word she said. The sound in this movie is amazing!
- The artistry is extraordinary . Any time an animation department works with water, it brings out the very very best. This one is no different. The lagoon, the waterfall, the storm, the lull after the storm, and that rascally animated wave, each is unique. Facial expressions, physical movement, the pig, the chicken and above all, Moana, are simply magic.
It was a happy crowd of children and adults who exited the screening last night.