Disney’s “Moana,” in which the daughter of a Polynesian chief journeys across the sea to save her island, is a funny film that celebrates family, adventure, courage, and following your heart.
Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho is terrific as the teenage title character, who yearns to sail the sea even though her father firmly forbids it. She doesn’t understand why she’s drawn to the ocean, until her equally ocean-loving grandmother Gramma Tala (Rachel House) reveals the tribe’s secret history: They used to be voyagers!
When a blight hits her island, Moana sets out to fulfill an ancient prophecy: If she can return a legendary fish-hook to the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), he will help her save the island. Johnson is hilarious as the vain god, who’s not at all interested in helping her but who (of course) eventually joins her quest.
Like any good Disney film, it features some very amusing animal sidekicks:
Moana’s pig, Pua, is adorable, but doesn’t end up going on the sea voyage with her, so he’s not featured as much as you might think from the marketing. He’s understandably not happy when Moana declares how much she loves to eat pork!
Dimwitted rooster Hei-Hei, however, stows aboard her raft and provides much of the film’s laughs, as well as proving surprisingly helpful on occasion.
A megalomaniac crab named Tamotoa (voiced by “Flight of the Conchord”‘s Jemaine Clement) has a big musical number that’s funny, but feels out of place with the rest of the film.
No animals are harmed (although Hei-Hei is constantly putting himself in harm’s way), but the storyline with the elderly Gramma Tala will likely have you in tears, as do her “spirit animals,” the ocean rays, whenever they appear.
There’s no doubt that Moana will fulfill her quest, but the enjoyment lies in seeing how she finds a way to follow her heart and still be true to her family’s traditions.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly movie to take in Thanksgiving weekend, “Moana” fits the bill nicely.