Following on strong from their critical and box-office smash-hit Zootropolis, back in March, Walt Disney Animation Studios are closing out 2016 with the second of their two 2016 releases, and another musical: Moana.

The premise for the film follows our eponymous lead, voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho, a lover of the ocean that dreams of one day setting sail in the seas. However, when she learns that her island is quickly deteriorating - due to a curse put on it a few years back when the once-mighty Demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) stole the heart of the goddess Te Fiti - Moana must set sail across the vast waters, with the ocean (and her pet chicken HeiHei) by her side every step of the way, to find and recruit Maui in order to restore the heart and save their island and its people. Of course, it's not quite so easy and things quickly go awry for the young adventuring princess.
I'm a big fan of animated films and of Disney's animated films, especially. Earlier in the year, Disney's other animation studio - outside of Pixar - Walt Disney Animation Studios gave us the remarkable Zootropolis, a film so charming and clever and witty that it seemed almost impossible to top. Then the studio released Moana, and they did just that: top Zootropolis. It should be noted that Moana is most definitely not as intelligent or smart as Zootropolis, but it's just so much more fun and a blast from start to finish. Animation alums Ron Clements and Don Hall direct this and they do a stunning job. They bring the perfect balance of heart, humour and drama to the proceedings and do so in a way that feels natural and seamless. Moana is by far one of the studio's best films in a while - which says something considering we've seen the likes of Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6 and Frozen in recent years. It's definitely nothing new but it's so infectiously charming, nonetheless.

This is a studio at the top of their game, that always deliver creatively rich, accessible and brilliant films. Despite the premise feeling fairly conventional and predictable at times, veering into more paint-by-numbers Disney territory, Moana still brings enough to the table to keep the film going and there's never a sense of deja-vu nor does it ever drag or feel repetitive. Similarly to films such as Zootropolis and Wreck-It Ralph, Moana has some truly astounding and gorgeously realised visuals - the animation is genuinely jaw-droppingly beautiful and realistic - and has created a world that is so extraordinary and immersive, full of such great, likeable characters, and such a fulfilling narrative with plenty of heart and humour, complete with a great message for younger audiences too. Whilst the comedy doesn't quite reach the maturity of Zootropolis, there's still plenty of great jokes and references for the adults as much as there is for the kids and this is definitely an accessible film for the whole family.

Of course, Moana is a musical, and it's a great one at that too. The songs are pretty much all great - with Dwayne Johnson's You're Welcome being the highlight - and Lin-Manuel Miranda has done a terrific job writing and composing a truly outstanding soundtrack for this film. This is a movie that also does a brilliant job of capturing and depicting Polynesian culture; it's honest and real and adds so much more to our investment in this journey as a whole. The voice work is stellar too, from both Johnson and newcomer Cravalho, with the pair playing tremendously off one another here; the former, especially, voicing a cocky, egotistical demigod is just tons of watch. However, Cravalho matches him blow for blow as the charismatic and strong-willed new Disney princess and the real star of the show. The animation is remarkable too and this world and these characters are so meticulously crafted; the direction and story are great, offering a satisfying and accessible narrative for everyone of all ages. The action and the humour all hit home too and, aside from some pacing issues here and there and some musical numbers falling flat, make Moana one of the year's most entertaining, enjoyable and just insane adventures yet. It will charm your socks off and have you smiling throughout. Disney has done it again; they've created another truly outstanding film.

VERDICT:

Moana is as great a Disney film as they come; it's beautifully animated but also packed with great heart, fun and songs. It brings the action, the wit and all the feels: another gem from the House of Mouse.




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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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