Review: Disney’s funny, charming and moving adventures of Polynesian princess Moana

Moana Waialiki (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) in Disney's animated Ppolynesian Moana. Picture: Disney

Moana Waialiki (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) in Disney's animated Ppolynesian Moana. Picture: Disney - Credit: Archant

The female empowerment of Frozen gets a colourful Polynesian makeover in the joyful rites-of-passage animation Moana, peppered with infectious songs.

Moana (PG)

****

There's something deeply sinister about Disney Princesses and their uplifting, inspiring ballads. They may be focussed in on little girls but the effects spill out over the place and anybody caught in the surrounding area is likely to find themselves reduced to mush.

The latest Disney Princess isn't a princess actually – Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) is a Polynesian tribal chief – but she has a song, called How Far Will I Go. It's no Let It Go, but it does a job on you.


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So there I was, a more than moderately jaundiced middle aged man, watching her seafaring mission to save her tribe alongside pompous fallen demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) when she starts to belt out her big number, and out of nowhere a wave of uplift, joy and frilly innocence swept through me like a flash infection. I had no control over it.

And then the song stopped and it went away and I felt a little bit used and cheapened.

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Moana is a state of the art computer animation, incredibly lifelike (just look at the water) but in every other aspect it is adheres rigidly to Disney orthodoxy: a strong heroine; comedy animal side kicks; musical numbers; cultural homogenisation and playing things straight – no smart aleck knowingness.

It's the perfect time for it: among its many, many disappointments, 2016 has been the first year when the majority of the big screen animations (with the honorable exception of Zootroplis) have been underwhelming.

Too glib, too frantic, too zingy, too nothing.

This is funny and charming and moving; a return to traditional values to get behind.

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