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Review: Moana

In a year of misery, filled with Brexit and Trump’s victory, one way that many people have stayed positive and learned to live with the unimaginable has been by listening to the work of genius that is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. With the musical having been introduced to me by a friend, I was blessed by the clever blend of the history of America’s founding fathers and rap. After seeing the trailer for Moana and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s name my interest soared from nonexistent to substantial very quickly.

The film stars Auli’i Cravalho as Moana, heir to the position of chief on an island. As life on the island is challenged by the disappearance of coconuts and fish, she must find demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in order to save both her island and the world.

Moana sailing the high seas.

This film did what few others have managed this year – to make me exponentially happy. The jokes are mostly very funny, the action and animation are smooth (a highlight was a scene with some killer coconuts, which weirdly made me think of Mad Max: Fury Road). The film is mainly carried by the performances of the two stars, who play their roles almost perfectly, with only a few moments where I thought the jokes did not land.

Another character who made me smile whenever she appeared is Gramma Tala, played by Rachel House. She is everything a supporting character needs to be: smart, funny and able to offer a guiding hand to Moana whenever she needs it.

Before watching the film I had listened to the song “You’re Welcome,” which introduces us to Maui. My mind must have been having an off-day because I went into the song expecting it to be just OK, forgetting who had written it. The influence of Miranda can be seen throughout the music, and it benefits massively from his talent. The music in Moana, for me, blows that found in Frozen out of the water.

Maui, the demi-god himself, with tattoos galore and a magical fish hook he is never seen fishing with.

The song “We Know The Way” is my personal favourite, not least because it actually features the vocals of Miranda. The song just made me feel happy. If I was less self-conscious I might even have danced to it.

The film is not without its flaws. It did annoy me that it jokes about being a film that for once fails to feature a princess, in an attempt to demonstrate its inclusiveness. If anything the fact that Disney only caught onto this in 2016 hints at shades of unoriginality in their other films.

The film becomes incredibly predictable towards the end as well, but I suppose a child won’t have my well-honed foresight.

However, I still left the cinema smiling, and if Moana can get me to do that then it will have a very easy time making its target audience do the same.

★★★★☆