Mommy-Movie-Review: Is “Moana” the Movie We NEED Right Now?

It’s not unusual for me to cry at movies. I’m an emotional person and tend to get very wrapped up in the story. Sometimes I’ll cry, not because the movie is sad, but because something so joyous and true is happening onscreen that I can stop myself. On very rare occasions, I’m still crying as I walk out of the theater and, to the eye-rolling dismay of my children, in the car as we drive home.

Sometimes I tear up even as I write the review, as I am right now for Moana.

Moana is the latest from Disney and despite what you may have heard, it’s not about a princess. No, Moana is actually the daughter of a CHIEF in the South Pacific and she’s in line to take over his role. Moana cares for her people and wants to lead them, but she also feels the pull of a sea her father forbids her to explore. The death of their crops and absence of fish, however, send Moana in search of help AND on the high-seas adventure she’s been longing for.

There are several great characters in this movie, but the weight of the story falls on young Auli’i Carvalho, who plays Moana. She is only 16-years-old (just turned November 22nd) so it’s astonishing that she can carry the role AND the wonderful Disney caliber songs (co-written by Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda). Not all of the music will stand the test of time, but I think we’ll be singing “How Far I’ll Go” and “Shiny” (which COULD be a David Bowie tribute) for years to come. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the demigod Moana seeks out for help, and the fact that he doesn’t steal the show is a testament to Carvalho’s strengths. I enjoy watching him in anything and was genuinely pleased to hear that “The Rock” can carry a tune.

There are many powerful messages in Moana, about believing in yourself and trusting your heart, but I appreciated what it didn’t say even more. Moana has no doubts about her abilities as a Chief, and her people never question having a WOMAN in charge. No one asks when she will take a husband or start a family, and Moana has absolutely NO love interest at all.

What Moana is ultimately about is the self-actualization of a person, who just happens to be a young girl. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to see that until I was walking from the theater with tears rolling down my face. My daughters acted like they didn’t know me and kept a safe distance, until the 12-year-old yelled “Jeez woman, pull it together!” Then she leaned in closer and whispered, “Don’t worry, Mom. I really loved it too.”
Maybe I wasn’t the only one who needed to see Moana, after all. –A+

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