Visually stunning, but in all other respects merely adequate. That essentially sums up my thoughts on the new Disney animated feature Moana, although to be fair I expect family audiences everywhere will probably think more highly of it than I did.
Based on Polynesian legends, the eponymous Moana is the adventurous daughter of a tribal chief – not, as she is at pains to point out, a princess. When her island is afflicted by a curse caused by the misadventures of the demigod Maui, she undertakes a perilous sea voyage to find Maui and make him put right the damage caused by his mischief. Along the way she is accompanied by a comedy chicken and a wave that looks like the sea tentacle from James Cameron’s The Abyss. Together they face various dangers, specifically monsters, the most dangerous of which is a giant lava demon thingy that will provide plenty of scares for very young audience members.
Although directors Ron Clements and John Musker have crafted a beautifully drawn piece of work with tremendous attention to detail, and even though the vocal cast (which includes Dwayne Johnson) all do well, somehow for me the film fell flat. Most ingredients of the classic Disney animations are present and correct, with funny bits, sad bits, scary bits, musical bits and bits about being yourself mixed together in the correct proportions. And yet somehow it has failed to congeal into a satisfying whole, even though it looks spectacular.
Perhaps I was in the wrong mood when I viewed it, but for whatever reason Moana felt like a letdown compared with recent top notch Disney animated product (Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and to a lesser extent the now slightly overrated Frozen). However, as I’ve already said, I suspect other audiences will beg to differ.