Whether or not Moana (pronounced Moe-AH-na) is the movie we need right now I can’t say definitively, but I think it was the movie I needed. And I suspect I won’t be alone in that feeling.
A tale of a courageous young woman who learns to lead from her ancestors and takes on a lava monster, Moana has a lot things going for it. Its sunny island setting lends itself to magical realism to great effect, similar to this year’s outstanding Kubo and the Two Strings. The film’s imagination runs rampant, and the results are funny and unpredictable. It has a great heroine. It calls for young people to embrace their family and community while also being brave and authentic. And the songs are mostly written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, and whew are they catchy.
All these factors taken together and topped off with a great voice cast means Moana punches way above the weight class typically assigned to children’s movies with a fairly boilerplate plot about figuring out who you truly are. It’s delightful.