Tyler K. Lopez
CHEEE-HOO! Welcome to the Moana review! Wow! I’ll be honest, this review is coming from a biased perspective as, and I’m not sure you noticed, but my Twitter handle sort of gives it away… That’s right, your favorite reviewer has an island background! Still, I’ll try to be professional. I’m going to do my best to give it to you straight… With that said, let’s start the review on this awesome, one-of-a-kind, phenomenal movie!… Too much. I’ll tone it down. Oh just so you know, “che-hoo” isn’t a real word, but it’s the island way of expressing excitement! You know you get all worked up and your heat beats fast, you know like when you read my reviews, then you just CHE-HOO!
1- Writing: 8/10
Let’s be clear: the basic premise of this movie is not altogether unique or special. However, the setting is new and fun and absolutely unique to Disney. I know we all loved Lilo and Stitch, but this is still something different and the way they tackled Polynesian culture was amazing. Kudos to the writing team included Jared Bush, Ron Clements, and John Musker for delving into the culture and providing context to a large audience.
2- Direction: 8/10
I thought most everything about this movie was presented well. The mixture of fun and serious was very good although the movie definitely trends toward “fun” and “funny” over “serious”. If we’re talking somewhere between Up and Cars, we’re leaning more towards the latter. All my Disney buffs know what’s up. I mean honestly anyone should get that reference, right?
3- Cinematography: 8/10
There were some fantastic visuals in this movie, but to be completely fair and honest it wasn’t the greatest I’ve seen from a Disney Studios production. I thought visually it was entertaining and never boring, but it wasn’t necessarily as creative and captivating as Zootopia. There were plenty of opportunities to marvel at the beauty of the ocean though! Che-hoo!
4- Acting: 9/10
I have to admit this was maybe my favorite surprise of the movie. Auli’i Cravalho was an inspiration considering this was her first big film. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson continues to be his awesome self (and he might actually be the demigod Maui in real life). Temuera Morrison gave his best performance since Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it was the last time I heard his voice. Alan Tudyk was the best stupid chicken since Arrested Development and special shout out to Rachel House who reminded me of my own Gramma.
5- Editing: 7/10
Alas! My only real gripe in the movie! That’s right if you keep reading you’ll not find much griping after this! The movie’s pace is a little shaky. The first act goes by smoothly and the second act is solid, but then the third act happens a little too quickly. I also wish we got more of Moana’s family and her village. All of that takes away a little bit of the emotional punch, but it wasn’t a disaster. It doesn’t hurt the movie too much.
6- Sound: 9/10
Like any Disney movie, the sound was high-quality. You needed everything from chicken squawks, to coconut knocks, to che-hoos, to waves, to swimming noises, to the tide, to… well you get it.
7- Soundtrack/Score: 10/10
Okay so this may sound like bias, but let’s be real: Lin-Manuel Miranda had a hand in this soundtrack! He’s amazing and his work speaks for itself. Other names that absolutely deserve to be mentioned are Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i who helped create the music. The soundtrack puts classic island sounds into a modern context. It’s simply wonderful.
8- Production Design: 10/10
This was something that I was completely delighted by. Over the years, it’s been easy to portray Pacific Islanders as savage, brutal, or less civilized than other countries. It’s been easy to think of them as “behind” modernized nations. The team does an amazing job of showing another side of island life and creating a tapestry of what the life was like. The only thing missing was a boar hunt, but that might not have been so uplifting…
9- Casting: 10/10
This was one of my favorite parts of the movie and helped add so much to its authenticity. The way people spoke, the cadence, the timing was true because the movie cast almost exclusively people with a Pacific Island background. Auli’i, Dwayne Johnson, Temuera Morrison, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, and Jemaine Clement all come from one of the islands. Basically Alan Tudyk is the only non-islander in the movie and he’s great in anything so who cares?
10- Effects: 9/10
I appreciated the look of the animation. I thought they did a tremendous job of depicting Hawaiian, Tongan, Fijian, Samoan, Tahitian, Maori, and Marquesan people and the way of life they cultivated. The animation helped suit that end and create a breathing world that was both foreign and yet easily relatable.
Overall Score: 8.8/10
This was a really, really good movie. I know Disney’s motives to get this movie right are not entirely altruistic, but they still justice to the Polynesian culture. They emphasized family ties, inner strength, a reverence and respect for the ocean, and a desire to explore. The attention to detail really reminded me of some of my family in the best way. I also discovered that Maui might just be my spirit animal. Obviously this movie hits home for me in a way where I can’t be completely objective, but hey where’s the fun in that? If you want a movie to watch over Thanksgiving, this is a great one to get to. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get my magical fish-hook in some turkey before it’s all gone!