Reviewed by: Curtis McParland
|Featuring:||Auli'i Cravalho … Moana (voice)
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson … Maui, a Polynesian demigod (voice)
Jemaine Clement … Tamatoa (voice)
Alan Tudyk … Hei Hei the Rooster (voice)
Nicole Scherzinger … Sina (voice)
Temuera Morrison … Chief Tui (voice)
Phillipa Soo … Actress (voice)
Rachel House … Gramma Tala (voice)
Michael Sun Lee … Islander
|Director:||Ron Clements—“Aladdin” (1992), “The Princess and the Frog” (2009), “Treasure Planet” (2002)
John Muskern—“Aladdin” (1992), “The Princess and the Frog” (2009), “Treasure Planet” (2002)
|Producer:||Walt Disney Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
|Distributor:||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
Sailing the ocean blue may be a dream for many, but I doubt anyone could top little Moana’s aspirations to explore the sea. Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) lives on the island of Montunui, which is ruled by her loving, yet overprotective father, Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison). Life is pretty great, that is, until the tides begin to turn on their beautiful island and their lush resources begin to gradually whither away. There is a reason for this, though. And oh boy, is it a big one. A great disruption in nature came to the land when a power hungry demigod by the name of Maui (Dwayne Johnson) decided to steal the “heart” of the mighty goddess and mother island, Te Fiti. Since then, the world has never been the same. Ever since she was a little girl, Moana was “chosen” by the ocean to return the heart to Te Fiti and restore peace to the mother land. And after years went by, the time finally came to fulfill her calling.
Moana’s task seems pretty simple: find Maui and return the heart. But little does Moana know of the great obstacles she will face as she embarks on an epic quest in one of Disney Animation’s most ambitious projects yet.
“Moana” is a film filled with gorgeous, top of the line animation, beautiful music, and lush scenery. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker do a solid job at directing this wonderfully animated film, and the voice talents are spot-on. The story, just like a stormy ocean itself, feels a bit choppy at times and some scenes near the center of the film feel a tad ridiculous and middling. Some pieces of the film appear to be slightly drawn out to eat up some time. Still, though, the beautiful animation, intriguing story, and fantastic music certainly outweigh some of these small inconsistencies in the story.
There is next to no sexual content, as the closest here is seeing shirtless men and characters wearing skirts with a bare midriff. There is no language to be concerned about, as we only here one unfinished phrase of “You lying son of a…” and a reference to somebody’s butt cheek. A character says “Oh shhh—ark head.”
Our heroes find themselves in many perilous situations as they travel the ocean and battle various foes. The violence flows from mild to moderate, as one character drowns off-screen, others nearly drown, waves crash down on numbers of characters, storms rage, and little coconut pirates battle Moana and Maui with various weapons and blow darts. Maui gets hit in the rear with a blow dart and appears to be partially tranquilized and paralyzed. A couple of other intense scenes involve a large lava monster the duo have to battle. It spews fire and lava, and, on three separate occasions, it loses a hand, as Maui slices it off with his magic hook. There are a couple of violent references, including death and human sacrifice, and we see some pretty scary creatures, including bats with multiple eyes, sea monsters with many arms, and a giant crab they battle. Maui mentions that he once ripped a monster’s leg off. A character gets punched in the face and hit in the head with an oar and another is seen getting a painful tattoo.
The violence really isn’t what parents and family audiences should be concerned about, though. “Moana” treads into some dark, murky waters with its darker themes of magic and mythology. More and more, I tend to see a reoccurring pattern of darker spiritual themes marching into children’s films, and “Moana” is no exception. The film starts out with a voiceover stating, “In the beginning there were only oceans”: an immediate nod to Evolution and false-creation. Maui believes he and other gods have the power to create just about anything. The film continues with some dark references and images of mythology, including an image of “the demon of earth and fire.” Stories of dark magic are shared with little children, and we see Maui turn into many different types of animals, including birds, whales, and sharks.
Reincarnation is mentioned and implied, after one character passes away. The character tells her granddaughter, “There is nowhere you can go where I won’t be with you.” This scene may bother younger viewers, as we see the character laying on her deathbed. We later see the character’s spirit communicate with another character, and it is implied she is reincarnated as a stingray. Moana frequently “speaks” to the ocean, and Maui believes that the heart of Te Fiti has the power to create life itself. Maui “communicates” with his many tattoos, as they perform various acts and gestures. Maui and Moana both later bow to a goddess. On a side note, Moana is a bit rebellious and deliberately disobeys her father after he tells her not to go beyond the ocean reef.
“Moana” may appear to be another “innocent” animated fantasy/action family film. But when you look a little more closely, it is a film that revolves around some pretty dark magic and borders along the of line occult. The lava monster, in particular, nearly serves as a form of demonic character, as it heaves flames at Moana and Maui. It may just appear as a mythological god in the film, but, when looked at more closely, I believe it serves as more of a demonic symbol than something simply pulled out of a fairy tale. Some parents may be concerned about multiple characters wearing tattoos all over their bodies. Maui brags about how he “earns” tattoos from doing great deeds. There is also some light toilet humor as Moana yells at the ocean, “Fish pee in you all day,” and it is also implied that Maui urinates in the ocean (nothing is seen).
“Moana” certainly has its strong points, though, as friendships are cherished, loyalty and self-sacrifice are applauded, the importance of family is shared, and the strong message of faith and courage come into play. Moana is certainly a persistent character, who does not give up very easily. The message of believing in yourself is huge in this film, but this could also give some audiences mixed feelings. We need faith more than anything. We should not be believing in ourselves, but solely on God. As John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Proverbs 28:26 also shares, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” And, of course, this proverb means godly wisdom; wisdom from the one true God.
Throughout the entire film, we see many characters put their faith in the wrong things: false gods, magic, and other human beings. One thing is for certain, though, they do not lack faith, character, or courage. One other positive message that is shared in the film is that greed and pride lead to destruction. We need each other. And this is a huge ongoing theme in “Moana.”
“…to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” —Acts 26:18
“Moana” is a relatively clean film. But, as I mentioned above, the most problematic content here is the use and display of dark magic, portrayals of mythology, and the main characters placing their faith and hope in not only themselves but false gods. A character shares a story about how he was left by his family as a baby and found by the gods. Followers of Christ may find a solid parallel to this story, though. We can be reassured, whenever we may feel lost, all we need to do is seek God out and He will find us and embrace us with His tender loving care. When we find God, He also finds us.
“Moana” is also a film about self-discovery and finding who you really are. John 1:12 shares, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” There is also a great message of defining who you are. It isn’t Maui’s magic hook that defines him as a person and great demigod. It is his character that defines him.
While “Moana” may be filled with plenty of positive messages, the content for concern (for family audiences anyway) slightly outweighs these great messages. I still give “Moana” a cautionary recommendation, as it will most likely be one of the safest options at the cinema this holiday season. But please take great caution before considering viewing this film, especially with younger children. Not only is the dark spirituality a concern, but some of the monsters shown are just downright too scary for the little ones. “Moana” may appear to be an innocent, homemade magical adventure from the studio that brought us “Frozen.” But, just like “Frozen,” it isn’t all that innocent. “Moana” still has its dark roots, moments of intense action/peril, and some questionable themes, just like many of its predecessors.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.