MOANA: Disney’s best animated films have recently adhered to a proven formula. Develop a plot around an independent-minded young person (If it’s a female, she’s either a princess or being groomed to become one.) on a quest where they’ll come to develop a sense of their own self-identity and worth with help from comedic sidekicks. Have the characters occasionally transition into Broadway worthy songs while constantly evolving CGI technology to create state-of-the-art animation. All those elements surface in this likeable if predictable myth of a teenage girl (voiced by Auli’I Cravalho) from a south Pacific island who embarks on an adventure across an ocean to save her people from starvation. She’s aided by an amiably egocentric, shape-shifting demigod (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and a scraggly chicken who seemingly can do no right. The songs are all pleasant enough with “You’re Welcome”, written by HAMILTON’s Lin Manuel-Miranda, being an especially catchy show-stopper. Even without three-dimensional viewing, the animation is as lush as the tropical settings. The direction from the animation team of Ron Clements and John Musker (ALADDIN, THE LITTLE MERMAID) is especially skillful and it’s apparent that the duo are in familiar territory. Even if the story is hardly an original one, it does avoid the clichés that are normally present in such works, like a love interest, in order for the main character to make her own way while more or less standing on her own in the movie. Although much of the script’s humor strays into the obvious, Johnson’s (THE OTHER GUYS) comic timing is usually on target. I’m convinced that somewhere in the world is a factory where Disney is cranking out movies like this one that are beautiful to look at and pleasant to watch for both adults and children.
CRITIC’S GRADE: B
CLOSING CREDITS: Here are the 10 best movies I saw in 2016 (In ascending order) – 10. FINDING DORY 9. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR 8. THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 7. ZOOTOPIA 6. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL 5. THE REVENANT* 4. DEADPOOL 3. HELL OR HIGH WATER 2. HACKSAW RIDGE 1. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
*This movie was released in 2015 but I didn’t see it until 2016.