It’s no surprise that Disney holds a monopoly when it comes to films about fairy tales and princesses. Not only are the films all-time classics, but the princesses themselves cross generation to generation, with the help of the parks of course. Over the last few years, Disney has made a 180 degree turn in the stories they tell about their princesses. Early on, these young beautiful princesses needed a prince to save them and define them, but now in our ever-changing culture, that is no more, and that’s a good thing. There was a prince near to Tiana, but she was a strong and independent character that didn’t need him. Merida taught young girls to be brave. Anna showed us the power of love and fearlessness when the odds were not in our favor, and taught us to be there for your family even when everyone is against them. Moana follows this same path and, quite frankly, goes beyond it as well.
Moana is the daughter of the chief of her tribe and next in line to be chief. The island is all she has known her entire life, yet she feels drawn to the Ocean. It is forbidden to go past the reef because beyond it the Ocean is an unforgiving and relentless force of nature. As her father and mother try to teach her the ways of her tribe, her grandmother (known as the crazy lady) pushes her to follow her own path and what she was truly called for. Her island is dying, the world is dying, and the only way to fix it is to right the wrong that the demigod Maui caused many years ago. Moana discovers the true identity of her people, ancient voyagers and then sets sail on a mission that will allow her to discover her own identity and not be tied to the one her people say she should be.
A few years ago, Frozen fever took over and it still goes strong today. As good as the film was, I feel Moana is leaps and bounds better. Maybe it’s because I find the Broadway style to the Island music more entertaining, but also, I felt that the story was much more powerful and heartfelt. Moana is a strong-willed character that tries with all her might to do what she thinks is right, and that’s be the chief her father is teaching her to be, but she can’t ignore the pull inside of her to go out into the ocean and explore. She teaches us that we should embrace the path that we are called to and not the one everyone says we should live, even if it goes against what the popular position is. Her courage and resolve blended with her heart and compassion jumps out on the screen and is really felt as she interacts with Maui.
Maui is a fun and dynamic character who is full of himself but Moana teaches him more about himself than he’s ever known. That is what is so great about Moana is that during an ocean adventure, the film makes you laugh (sometimes hysterically), cry, cheer, and feel hopeful all in one. Moana brings that out because she isn’t just on an adventure to save the world, but it’s a journey of finding herself.
Maui is strong, immortal, arrogant, funny and yet sad and lost. Maui just wants to be loved but has no idea how that works. He tries and tries and tries and it’s never enough. The world is dying because Maui just wanted to be loved and did something that he shouldn’t have done. We’ve met many people like Maui. Good people that are lost because at some point when they were young they were abandoned. It’s only when they reach a low point that we can learn who they really are. Moana was on an adventure to save the world and find her identity, but during that adventure Maui ended up finding the same. With all of his great charisma, we are able to see a vulnerability in the character that allows us draw close and emotionally connect with him and fall in love with him. It was a well-developed character that was perfectly cast with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
What strikes me most about the story is the similarities of not just the story of creation, but really the story of man and God. The film shows that man is not satisfied with what God has done for us. With everything in the garden, Adam and Eve were tricked into thinking it wasn’t enough, that ultimately being equals to God was the end goal. Sin entered the world and since then mankind suffers with a bout of “god-complex”. We are not equipped for that and in our effort to achieve it we have let loose darkness in the world. But darkness cannot hinder the light. When Christ died for us, it is similar to Moana restoring what was broken and at the end, just like Maui was forgiven, we also find forgiveness when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, in other words restoring the heart back to where it belongs.
Moana is getting lots of praise, and rightfully so. It is a fun and heartwarming film that is perfect for this time of year. A princess that breaks the status quo a long with a fun and charismatic companion in Maui that just makes a for a great time with the family. And if my daughter is any indication, the music can very well catch on just like Frozen fever (and frankly, I don’t mind).