"Follow Your Calling"
MOANA is a stunning movie from Disney Animation about a young girl on a Polynesian island set 2,000 years ago, who feels called to the ocean, even though her people have given up ocean navigation for generations due to the dangers of the open sea.
Moana is the chief’s daughter and is preparing to one day be the leader of her people on their peaceful island. However, her desire to be out on the open ocean troubles her father, who’s afraid she’ll be killed. Moana’s grandmother warns her of impending doom that may happen to their people because of a legendary story that’s been passed down by generations.
As the story goes, in the beginning, the earth was just water, until Te Fiti, a beautiful island, rose from the ground. Te Fiti brought life to the earth and prosperity, and at the heart of the island was a stone that was believed to give the ability to create life itself. One day, a demigod named Maui, a trickster and shapeshifter, decides to steal the heart of Te Fiti. Right as he does so, a giant lava-monster named Te Ka confronts him, and Maui loses the stone and his special ties to the ocean. With the stone separated from Te Fiti, death begins to creep into the ocean.
Moana’s grandmother warns that the destruction of their home is impending, unless someone can return the stone to the heart of Te Fiti. Her grandmother also reveals that the ocean has chosen Moana to be that savior. Moana sees the danger facing her people. Inspired by the history of her ancestors as sea navigators, she grabs a boat and sets out into the ocean to enlist Maui the demigod to help her on her quest.
The ruthless ocean quickly maroons Moana onto an island, but it just so happens to be the island where Maui is stuck. When Moana tells Maui of her mission, he immediately refuses, wanting nothing to do with her. Completely full of himself and all that he’s done for humanity as a demigod, Maui thinks everyone should already be grateful for him, but really, he just doesn’t want to face Te Ka the lava monster again. Moana persists and eventually persuades Maui to help her, though he does so begrudgingly.
As they face the ocean, Moana must learn who she is, what her calling is, and Maui must become the hero he already thinks he is. Can they save humanity from impending doom?
MOANA has incredible animation that makes even the ocean a moving multidimensional character. The bar is continually being raised, and MOANA meets the standard and then some. Added are wonderful voice performances from Dwayne Johnson as Maui and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho as Moana. With catchy tunes and beautiful music in Polynesian style, Moana is a sheer crowd pleaser.
That said, MOANA has some problem areas, mostly in that much of the movie focuses on Polynesian paganism and mythology. A culture of polytheism, there’s a demigod as a major character, references to reincarnation and “mother earth.” Also, Moana even converses with her grandmother’s spirit at one point. Unlike KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, however, which was practically a sermon for paganism, MOANA is more of an homage to Polynesian culture. Regardless, the spiritism isn’t worth glorifying, and it’s why many missionaries risked their lives bringing the gospel to Polynesian cultures, which ended up impacting many islands in positive ways that still have effect today.
On the positive side, Moana has some moral, redemptive values as the heroine. For example, she exhibits strength, kindness, selflessness, sacrifice, and a desire to protect her people. She also encourages Maui to be his best, a hero who’ll give up his own self-interest for the well being of others.
MOANA has a few scary moments, especially with the lava monster fight sequences and some light toilet humor. This, along with the movie’s mythic pagan elements, requires a caution for children.
Editors note: Before MOANA is a hilarious short movie about a man with a boring office job who’s inside organs come to life in a way not un-similar to INSIDE OUT. The brain primarily keeps the man going, keeping him safe and healthy, but at times, his heart wants to take the lead and do fun things, like swim in the ocean and eat pancakes. However, the brain envisions this leading the man to death. In the end, the brain decides to let the heart take the lead and give the man some joy.
The short is very unique and funny, and even includes shots of a priest praying over a grave with a cross when the brain envisions the man’s death. The only caution is some toilet humor and maybe a light Romantic emphasis on letting one’s heart control you.
(BB, C, PaPa, FR, O, V, N, M) Strong moral worldview with light redemptive elements promoting strength amid adversity, following one’s calling, sacrifice, selflessness, humility, and redemption, but mitigated by Polynesian paganism and mythology including discussion of demigods, reincarnation and a lead character talks to a spirit; no foul language, but some toilet humor; light animated violence includes a hoard of coconuts attacking protagonists with spears and blow darts, a scary lava monster fights with the heroes, a giant crab tries to eat people; no sexual content; upper male nudity, women wear traditional Polynesian garb which shows some midriff; no alcohol; no smoking or drugs; and, pride and some disobedience from a child.
MOANA is a stunning movie from Disney Animation. It’s about a young girl on a Polynesian island 2000 years ago, who feels called out to the ocean, even though her people have given up ocean navigation long ago due to its many dangers. Moana has been chosen to be the next leader of her people, but her island is in danger. Their only hope is for Moana to venture beyond the reef, find the demigod Maui and convince him to return a miraculous stone to the heart of the island. Their adventure together will reveal who they really are.
MOANA is a definite crowd-pleaser, with incredible animation, catchy music and great character development. The voice performances are also superb. The movie contains strong moral elements promoting perseverance, kindness, self-sacrifice, courage, and humility. However, the story includes references to Polynesian mythology. Thus, a demigod is a major character, and there’s a reference to reincarnation. On the positive side, Moana has a strong desire to protect her people and follow her true calling. Caution is advised for children due to MOANA’s pagan mythology.