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“Moana” proves that Dwayne Johnson can truly do anything

It seems like I write this at least once or twice a year, but Disney is poised to have another big hit on their hands. They continually churn out enjoyable fare, especially with their animated musical offerings. On Wednesday, their latest hits in Moana, which very much feels like it’s a successor to Frozen. Featuring songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda and a winning bit of voice work from Dwayne Johnson, it’s poised to be a big deal during Thanksgiving. Family fare always has a leg up, and this will be no exception. It’s going to contend for awards, that’s for sure, but it will also make a mint at the box office first, and that never hurts. Audiences are in for a treat.

The movie is essentially standard issue Disney princess stuff, though there’s a bit of tinkering with that premise. Young Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) wants to help save her village and her island, which is struggling to survive. Using her exceptional navigational talents, she sails for help, eventually getting it in the form of the legendary demi-god Maui (voice of Johnson), a hero to Moana. Together, they head on an adventure to save the day. Catchy songs and fun ensue. The film is co-directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, and Chris Williams. Jared Bush wrote the script, with story by credits going to Clements, Hall, Musker, and Williams, as well as to Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, and Pamela Ribon. Other voice work here includes the likes of Jemaine Clement, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Troy Polamalu, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, and more. The score is by Mark Mancina, while Mancina teams with Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i on the original songs.

Chief among this film’s successes are the music and the work of Johnson. There truly is nothing that the artist formerly known as The Rock can’t do. Johnson has already shown an aptitude for action, comedy, and drama, as well as having done solid voice work before, but here he proves he has pipes too. It’s strong stuff. The music soars too, with a definite influence of Miranda all around. Your mileage may vary, but I thought You’re Welcome was the best song. Plenty will prefer We Know The Way though, or at least I assume as much. They’re all good though, trust me there.

Dwayne Johnson 599 × 338Animated flicks have limited awards potential, but where they tend to contend, Moana will do it. Anything like Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for Johnson), or Best Original Screenplay (for Bush, Clements, Hall, Kandell, Kandell, Musker, Ribon, and Williams) are pipe dreams, but Best Animated Feature seems like a lock for a nomination. The same goes for at least one spot in Best Original Song, with two a definite possibility. We could also see it wind up in Best Original Score, though that remains to be seen. It won’t be shut out though, I know that much. The music is just too catchy and the Animated race is just too fluid for that to happen.

Basically, this week brings a really nice animated flick to cinemas in Moana. The music is incredibly catchy, the visuals are bright, and it’s just a pretty fun time for the whole family. I really enjoyed it, even if it’s not quite on the iconic level of Frozen from a few years ago. You’ll be humming the songs afterwards though, and that’s almost always a good thing. If you have kids, they’ll dig it, but the movie doesn’t totally ignore the adults in the audience either. Simply put, Disney has done it again, not that we ever has any reason to doubt them…

Be sure to check out Moana, in theaters everywhere on Wednesday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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