The latest in a long line of Disney princess movies boasts a strong, capable heroine and fantastic music to match.
If you're after a cure for your Christmas meat-and-beer hangover, don't be put off by the hordes of children swarming the Moana showings. This Boxing Day, if you can block out their shrieks, you'll be rewarded with one of Disney's best animated films to date. Although to be honest, when you look at the team behind the film, that's not really that surprising.
At the helm are The Little Mermaid directors John Musker and Ron Clements, kickin' it old school and revisiting a narrative structure as old as time. Moana (Auli'i Cravalho), the title character and daughter of a Polynesian prince, is launched on a quest to save her people after a curse threatens their island. After she's chosen by the ocean (who turns out to be a major source of comedic relief), she defies her sea-fearing father and seeks out Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Maui, a shape-shifting demigod, is the one who originally put the curse on the islands by stealing the heart of the goddess Te Fiti.
Once Moana finds and wrangles Maui into submission, the pair travel together to recover his magical fish hook and restore the heart. Along the way, Moana discovers something about her people – they weren't always bound to their islands. Her quest isn't about seeking family honour, love, or personal development – she's an island chief with bigger concerns. The complete lack of any romantic notions is also refreshing.
Moana is a cocktail of all of the best elements of the Disney princess tropes – a desperate quest, charismatic supporting cast, catchy tunes and an animal sidekick – but with one subtle but important difference. Unlike most Disney princesses, Moana doesn't need a training montage to become a boss bitch, because she's strong to begin with. Not only is she a dutiful and diligent chief-in-training, she respects her parents, listens to her grandmother, champions the underdog and walks to the beat of her own drum. She's superficially goofy, but not in a way that undermines her capability or authority. She's a beautiful role model, and maybe the best Disney princess so far.
Moreover, the movie's score, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa'i, is the music its heroine deserves. Prepare your ears to hear the main refrain 'How Far I'll Go' more than that damn 'Let It Go' song from Frozen. We ain't mad, though, because it's the perfect summer jam.