Moana review: By Rob Stoakes
UK Certification: U
It’s weird how long it took for Hollywood to get Dwayne The Rock The People’s Champion The Brahma Bull The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment It Doesn’t Matter What His Last Name Is right.
After all, here’s a wrestler who wasn’t very good at wrestling but so good at talking and had such good facial expressions that IT DOESN’T MATTER! which the wrestling fans among you read in his iconic shout. So, what’s he used for when he enters Hollywood? Shutting up and scowling.
And shut up and scowl he did for a while. Possibly because he looks like a brick wrapped in meat and could probably flex and somehow break my neck, but probably because Disney did put him in a comedy once. The Tooth Fairy. Yes, the man who hit a handcuffed man in the head with a chair nine times was now wearing tutu. Not good times were had. So it’s odd that he would ever consider working with Disney again, but here we are.
Not that it’s The Rock’s movie, of course. It is called Moana, and Moana is the daughter of a chief who forbids her from going outside a small boundary and tells her to find happiness in her little community. However, her heart calls for something more, which she announces through song, and encouragement from a crazy old lady lead her to go off and find Maoi, the disgraced demigod who stole a macguffin and has to learn not to be selfish while she has to learn to embrace destiny as they save China. I mean Polynesia.
All of the references to Polynesian legends can’t hide that this film is basically “The Little Beauty of Notre Dame” and the beginning suffers for it. You can tell where the film is going from a mile off, and while that’s not bad in itself, the complete lack of variation or style completely crushes the film’s beginnings.
Disney is cliché, yes, and in fact recognising the familiar parts is part of the fun. But The Lion King’s “I want” song was tied to a character flaw Simba would grow out of. Frozen’s villain hides in plain sight. Hercules fell in love with one of the villains. Moana has no edge, no twist, no new idea to throw in aside from an interesting design.
So it’s really bizarre when The Rock as Maoi shows up, and it becomes a completely different film. While part of it is The Rock himself, who is hilarious, the entire film seems to get better. Moana as a character grows more badass while also being vulnerable emotionally, the action set pieces are great for both action and comedy and the ending, aside from a thundering lack of subtlety, is genuinely something I didn’t see coming. It’s like this film was written by a monkey, then his handler walked in and fixed what was broken. Or, as it’s more commonly known, George Lucas’ writing process.
Shame about the songs, then, which stay bad throughout the film and are repeated over and over again just to make sure that you can’t escape. The other technical aspects are good, like the amazing as usual animation, but for all of Disney’s iconic songs this is one of the worst out there.
Overall, though, Moana is very easy to summarise; extremely beautiful, but with a bad start and a very poor choice of songs, sort of like that one time Demi LeVato did my colonoscopy (and you can totally ask her and she’ll confirm it happened).
Budget: $150 million/Music: Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina & Lin-Manuel Miranda/Length: 103 minutes