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REVIEW: ‘Moana’ sets sail on Oscar ship

%22Moana%22+captures+the+essence+of+adventure+and+relying+on+friends+to+achieve+your+dreams.

"Moana" captures the essence of adventure and relying on friends to achieve your dreams.

Courtesy Disney Movies UK

Courtesy Disney Movies UK

"Moana" captures the essence of adventure and relying on friends to achieve your dreams.

Tess Herdman, Co-Opinion-Editor

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Set your sails and look to the horizon with Disney’s newest masterpiece, “Moana”. The Academy-award nominated film bursts with strong new characters, powerful music from Hamilton composer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda, a moving story, and a blend of rich Polynesian cultures.

This animated story tells the tale of Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the teenage future chief of the Polynesian island of Motunui, as she embarks on a quest to save her home from dark forces of angry supernatural powers. She has been chosen by the sea itself to find the shape-shifting demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) who has caused this trouble by stealing the stone heart of a goddess.

There is something for everyone in “Moana”. There is plenty of adventure, as Moana and Maui battle coconut pirates, a treasure-hoarding giant crab, and a lava-hurling creature, accompanied by a unintelligent chicken. However, the story is just as much about Moana’s personal journey to discover herself and her place in her society as it is about her adventure, adding appeal to viewers’ emotional side.

The character of Moana is both relatable and someone to aspire to be like. She is a Disney heroine who is clever and brave as she fights for what she loves and does not need to be rescued. She is also connects to viewers as an authentic character. She struggles over if she can fulfill expectations of her. Unlike most of Disney’s princesses, she even has a loving family and puts up her hair when it’s in her way!

Maui’s character also grows tremendously through the film, with a complementary character arc to Moana. As Moana becomes more sure of herself, the arrogant demi-god becomes more self-aware of how his behavior affects others, and gains a different kind of sureness in himself. Moana’s grandmother, Tala (Temuera Morrison), also serves a key role in the story, encouraging Moana to follow her draw to the sea, and guiding her to rediscover the lost art of wayfinding that allows her to sail on her journey.

Auili’i Cravalho, who was cast in a wide Oceanic talent search at the age of fourteen, was absolutely the right choice for this role. She is able to portray Moana’s moments of confidence, uncertainty, and never-ending drive with the skill of a trained actor, not to mention her incredible voice. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a perfect complement to her, and as fun as always. Who knew The Rock could sing? The voice of Moana’s chicken, Heihei, is also a special appearance by Alan Tudyk, the voice of K-2SO in “Rogue One” and multiple other Disney characters.

The music is as good as expected from Miranda, and his song “How Far I’ll Go” from the movie was nominated for Best Original Song for the Academy Awards. Several of the songs are sung in the Polynesian language of Tokelauan, and there’s plenty more to sing along to in English. For Hamilton fans upset at Miranda’s departure from the show, his vocals are featured on several tracks.

The filmmakers worked hard to keep this film authentic to Polynesian culture. Almost all of the leading actors are Polynesian, and a team of Pacific Islanders was assembled as the Oceanic Story Trust to give feedback on various story elements. Part of Moana’s journey is reconnecting with her ancestors, and the lost art of wayfinding, which is how ancient Pacific Islanders navigated the ocean.

This movie is a beautiful story set in a vibrant culture, with enough music, adventure, and inspiration to make you want to set out on your own journey, whether it’s across the ocean, or just across the room to tackle your homework the way Moana tacked those coconut pirates.

“Moana” comes out on DVD on March 7 2017 and on Amazon Video and iTunes on February 21 2017. It is an absolute “must sea.”

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The official student news site of Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, MA
REVIEW: ‘Moana’ sets sail on Oscar ship