Moana – Doug Reviews

Another smash hit for Disney, but is it the thrilling adventure people are looking for?

About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

34 comments

  1. tastetherainbowmothafuka

    I was really looking forward to this one I was ready to love it. But yeah, it felt pretty standard and predictable. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable and fun, but I don’t really understand why people are claiming its one of the most amazing things ever. Plus I think it had some some focus issues that sort of u interrupted the flow.

    I’m glad the culture is getting some mainstream representation tho. People say I look like Moana 🙂 Good movie, but still kind of by numbers.

  2. so the turtle is a big lip alligator moment.

    • The (ahem) CRAB, Tamatoa, is more like a video game level. They need to go there for a real reason, they need to get something from him, and they have to battle/escape him to be able to move on. Not pointless. And, you know, it was fun.

      • Honestly I loved Tamatoa’s song. I don’t think it’s the best song in the movie, but I loved it. Jermaine Clements did a kind of strange but kind of fun David Bowie inspired performance, and I thought that was a cool way to tribute to what I assume was one of his musical influences. There’s even a moment where Tamatoa makes a very David Bowie esque expression and I thought that was cool.

        It’s totally a strange scene though. The song is all over the place as far as subject matter is concerned. first he’s singing about Moana’s grandma, then he’s singing about why he makes his shell shiny, then he tells Maui he was inspired to do the shiny shell from Maui’s tattoos… even though Maui already knew him as a collector from their first meeting… then there’s a weird moment where they try to foreshadow Maui’s backstory out of nowhere… It is strange, for sure.

  3. I get where you’re coming from and I agree with some of your points (particularly that cliche with Maui which I’m sick to death of). For me the unique culture and atmosphere was enough to compensate for the “checklist” predictable story. The movie’s drenched in Polynesian folklore which I found really engrossing. And I don’t think you gave enough credit to the animation. The ending as you said is absolutely superb (it reminded me of Fantasia 2000), but the animation throughout particularly with regards to the tangibility of the ocean itself made this the best looking animated film this year short of Kubo and possibly Long Way North.

  4. Just wanted to make sure you mean Tamatoa the giant crab and not a giant turtle right?

  5. I thought you were perhaps a little too hard on the movie or at least didn’t give enough credit to what the movie did well.

    Yes. The checklist really, really weakened the movie, but I thought that the first 40 minutes of the movie (right up until she met Maui) was nearly flawless story telling. The first two songs did so much to establish Moana’s internal conflict while also showing that her father’s basic outlook was actually based in wisdom even if too rigid.

    I thought Moana was a WONDERFULLY three dimensional character. She loves her island and wants to do her duty to her people… but she can’t silence her heart. I really felt her turmoil, excitement, dismay, grief, trepidation, and determination during the opening parts of the movie.

    I was very worried the movie would devolve into The Rock saves the day! But it was repeatedly Moana’s determination, cleverness, and ability that made the difference. That isn’t to say that Maui didn’t have his own moments, but this really was Moana’s story both in character arc and plot (which is why the focus on Johnson’s charisma was disappointing).

    I could bring up a few more things, but I’ll stick to my two main points.

    1) truly great 1st act
    2) heroine has to be one of my favorite characters ever created. Not because she is a new type of character but rather because I believe she is one of the best executed characters

  6. I thought the movie was a bit…formulaic myself. I kept looking at Moana and imagining Judy Hopps or Anna superimposed over her and I thought: “Yup, I can totally see that character saying these things and doing these actions.” Nevertheless, I did notice a couple differences from the standard Disney formula.

    1. No orphans here…Moana has both parents and still has ’em at the end.
    2. Moana and Maui don’t pair up at the end, even as “partners”.

    That aside, my favorite part was the crab monster. And I couldn’t overlook the fact the entire plot was unnecessary.

    (SPOILER ALERT) All the ocean had to do was move aside and let the lava god pick up her heart after it dropped in the beginning. (END SPOILERS)

    I didn’t get the sense of “wonder” in this one…which is kind of sad because this movie took place on an ocean and I’d think this would be one place where you would really feel small.

    • The movie “addresses” your spoiler concern somewhat in the film and even acknowledges it.

      I have theories as to why it was the case, but all of it is not implied heavily enough even though logically I think my rationale makes sense.

  7. The directors of Moana were the same people as Princess and the Frog, so I totally get where Doug’s coming from when he’s saying the movie is formulaic. They have so much history in using that formula that it does become repetitive. They know the motions because they’ve gone through it many a times. And I do think that the reason Doug isn’t giving Moana a pass though is the same reason why most people will love Moana, because it’s a callback to the formula in many a sense, and it’s the formula done “right” whereas arguably they didn’t do it so well in PatF. So I do think that a lot of Doug’s points are fair in that regards.

  8. That all said, here’s where I disagree with Doug.

    First of all, it bothers me that Doug never acknowledges that the Father character has a very good rationale for being the father figure that doesn’t want his daughter to do a certain thing. He saw his best friend die. Admittedly, I even think the movie doesn’t give it as much focus as it deserves, but that’s a totally understandable reason why the father’s the way he is.

    Secondly, it irks me greatly how he talks about how the movie follows the “Disney Checklist”, but then completely hates the fact that the animal sidekick character is completely useless. It seemed to be a spin on the Disney sidekick by making the character not an Olaf or a Flounder. If it doesn’t work for him, it doesn’t, but having a side animal character be just comic relief isn’t Disney’s MO. Sure, it’s been done elsewhere, and maybe it seems silly to have a character just be there to “be there”, but I thought that was refreshing.

    Also, no mention of the fact that the Disney Princess doesn’t have a love interest? I think it actually speaks volumes in Doug’s character how not big a deal that is, because it shouldn’t be. But for Disney and strong female characters in general in Western Animation? This movie’s awesome. Sure, she follows other archetypes, but it’s telling how strong this character is. The problem is that it’s a Disney Princess going through the classic Oddessy/Chosen One storyline. So there’s a lot of common ground/retread, but at the same time, it’s brand new territory having the Disney Princess try to find herself in the same way other classic “hero” stories do.

    The rest seems pretty subjective (even the comments above are Doug’s POV, which is the point of the review, so that’s fine). But one thing I’ll agree with Doug on is the weakness of the villain, but that seems to be an issue with Disney in general (and that includes Marvel). Weak villains. In fact, it’s probably what made it so striking and pale in comparison, at least in Doug’s eyes. You’re following the Disney formula, but you’re lacking the strong villain character, and they play a major part in making the Disney films iconic. Once again, the film is going for more of an Oddessy like adventure instead of hero vs. villain so I think that’s fine, but it would be nice for Disney to have a classic villain again, especially since the rest of the film followed the formula as Doug puts it.

    • Dude, at least the villain isn’t another “Hey, look a good guy, what, he’s a bad guy! Didn’t see that coming!” cliché. But yeah, Disney has huge problems with villains these days, even Kylo Ren sucks. Every time he comes on screen, I expect to hear Simple Plan’s “How Could This Happen To Me!”.

      • Please not another Kylo Ren hater. And The Force Awakens was technically made by Lucasfilm.

      • Yeah, this is the reason I was generally okay with the villains not being a major part of the film. (That and I always find it commendable when a family film doesn’t feel like it has to have a main villain) I like surprise villains reveals, but Disney’s done that 4 times in a row now. It’s nice to see them stray away from that this time around.

    • Even without his history, the father had a perfectly good rationale: the open ocean is too intense for the equipment and skills the village had. Moana was friends with the ocean, and even she only survived due to plot armor.

  9. I may see Moana this weekend. I usually am apathetic to Disney but I love pretty visuals.

  10. I have yet to see Zootopia so maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed Moana a lot. Yeah, the cliches were nearly noticeable but I liked it.

  11. I get where you are coming from, but I really dont’ agree and you come off like you didn’t do a lot of research or really care about how well done the movie was. Nope! you got too distracted by one element that shouldn’t be distracting.

    Don’t know really how you can say how Moana is predictable and yet you don’t criticize the issues with Frozen or Kung Fu Panda 3. Those are two good movies, but Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t perfect. Same with Frozen.

  12. How could you possibly mistake a crab for a turtle? The two animals don’t look remotely similar. I think you really need to get those glasses of yours checked.

  13. Even more that how formulaic the film is, the thing holding Moana back was the titular character. Sure, she was a Strong Female Role Model, but all that means is that she lacked any room for growth and had a character arc that was over by the ten minute mark. There is no difference between the Moana that left on a ship and the Moana that returned beyond the knowledge of a few knots. She even got the same shpiel from her grandmother both times

    The one opening for growth would have been having her acknowledge that her father was completely right, that she was in no was equipped to go beyond the reef and was treating the need to return the Heart as a pretext to go on a pleasure cruise, but that would lead acknowledging that “following your dream” might not be a good thing, something taboo in childrens’ media, particularly that aimed at girls.

    Also, there was the completely pointless Weterworld/coconut-pirates scene, which I’m pretty sure was just there to pad the running time and show Moana possessing capabilities she had no reason or opportunity to develop. Again, this would have worked had the point of the movie been trying to show how she wasn’t treating anything seriously enough, but the writers were too busy pandering to the audience.

    Of course, I’m of the opinion that the height of childrens’ media is Mumu, a story about a man being forced to kill his own puppy, so others might be less into tough love than me.

  14. Walker is a very common last name isn’t it.

  15. Walker is a common last name in the Anglophonic world. Also you critics are never satisfied, that’s why I became like that.

  16. Here were my thoughts that I typed up recently:
    I think it’s good, all Disney movies are, but it’s not as good as it could have been.

    The story feels disjointed, plucking along from plot point to plot point with no real cohesion. “This is the starting island. Here’s the part with Maui. Here’s the pirate fight. Here’s the crab scene. Here’s the final battle.”

    The coconut pirates show up once and are never seen again. The crab is a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, which is mostly fine. The ocean is very picky about when and how it helps Moana.

    Maui’s shapeshifting was largely unhelpful. He did use it, but half the stuff he did, aside from flying, wasn’t necessary to winning his fight.

    The pig had no purpose to the movie. It should either have been cut, or stowed on the boat with Hei-Hei. I can think of several interactions that would have been great by adding the pig.

    Speaking of, Hei-Hei is useless. He is comic relief, but all comic relief characters should get one all-important moment. There is a scene where Moana is hit on her boat, the heart goes flying, tumbles, and Hei-Hei pecks it before it goes overboard. Thing is, this scene happens so fast, that the weight of possibly losing the heart has no time to develop. She drops it and recovers it within seconds. An example of how to improve this would be the heart is lost, she looks frantically for it, thinks it’s gone, then Hei-Hei coughs it up saving the day.

    Another detail I noticed was Maui found out he wasn’t a hero anymore, and subsequently convinced to help Moana, because she told him. This conflict was solved within a minute. A much better execution would have been to have him see for himself that nobody knew who he was anymore or that he was no longer a hero, considered a scourge even. Then we would have a much more emotional investment in him succeeding.

    Overall, the isolation of the ocean hurt the movie’s pacing with the disjointed feeling.

    As for songs, only 3 stand out. The others are 100% forgettable. Those 3 being “You’re Welcome”, Moana’s Calling Me song and its reprise, and the crab’s song.

    I give it an 8/10 because no matter what, it’s still a good Disney movie. But Frozen, Tangled, and Wreck It Ralph are far more cohesive, engaging movies.

  17. My big issue with the movie is the first act. The first act is pretty much a formula but as soon as Maui shows up it gets much more interesting. To me, the animation was one of the biggest elements of it. Im not talking about the detail of the animation, but the movement and timing of it. Maui’s movement was really well done and thought out. I do agree the Crab scene was a bit distracting in tone and the slow motion at the end of the movie was out of place, but the movie managec to be entertaining and the characters were relatively well written. While Disney has written arrogant heroes, i dont think they generally write ones who questionably deserve to be praised. I thought that was neat.

  18. Honestly I disagree a lot. I thought the movie had a really fresh take on the “chosen one” narrative. The whole story was, ‘you don’t get chosen, you choose to do something.” You say that the grandmother was only there to say ‘you can do it’, but she doesn’t, she let’s Moana decide she wants to do it before ever encouraging her. And so often you get people pushing their own agenda, it’s really refreshing to see a character that was going to support Moana for whatever she choose, even if it was staying on the island. I also like that she never rejected her leadership position. It wasn’t an either or situation for her. I also loved that it was an adventure story that rooted in mythology. Not a lot of disney princess stories that go that root. I saw a lot in the movie that I don’t normally see.

  19. SPOILERS FOR ANYONE READING COMMENTS

    The Chicken did save the heart of Te Fiti at the end, seemingly after spending his whole life being fascinated by (and swallowing) rocks. Not the best through line, but it is there.

  20. I’ve been a little disappointed that I’ve seen several reviews of Moana and not a single one has mentioned the “We Know the Way” scene. When I think of this movie, that’s the first scene that comes to mind. It’s so grand and huge! Especially seeing it on the big screen. Just the entrance to the scene, where the giant boat peaks over the wave is just so exciting to me!

  21. Am I the only one who loved the “animal sidekick” this time around more than any other one ever? I was scared they’d have the boring “smiley and supportive” pig around, but they ditched it – and instead they gave us a Retarded Rooster.

    And it was great BECAUSE it didn’t do anything helpful. It wasn’t a sympathetic “character” that cheered the protagonist up when they were down or helped them achieve the great goal – no, it was a dumb chicken that was brought along by mistake and was in no way a “character” whether it helped or got in the way. It was a joke, not a character, and I’m glad to finally see a Disney movie realize that animals can not be characters.

    True to life, many animals are just that – animals. They have no moral obligations, no interests and often very little brain power. And the charm or lack thereof stems from all that! Why have the animal sidekicks thus far felt so unnecessary and forced? Because they were sidekicks, yes, but not animals. Animals are funny and lovable not when they act like humans, but when they act like animals. When they show how dumb they are or how they don’t care about anything other than food or when they just want you to leave them alone or when they shower you with affection at the most inopportune moments… This feels like the first time Disney did a true animal. About time.

  22. I’m ok with the Disney formula. I go into a Disney movie expecting it. With that said I was more aware of it this time around than with some other recent Disney movies, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the movie at all.

    I LOVED seeing a totally different culture that they haven’t been brave enough to tackle before now. And I also would have seen this movie anyway for the simple fact that it had a woman of color as the main character.

    Although Doug is right in everything he says about the movie, I think Disney was being VERY careful with their set up here. Because the general public was SO excited and SO worked up to see a person of color on the screen finally represented (other than princess and the frog)I think Disney was afraid to take any sort of risks with this film in the same exact way they were afraid to take any risks with Princess and The Frog.

    The film felt ‘safe’ to me, like they were just so afraid of making a mistake that they decided not to take any risks at all. And that’s OK. This felt like a perfect way for Disney to finally break out of their shell (make fun of the metaphor all you’d like). Why not start off with a safe film, one they felt comfortable making before venturing off into uncharted territories?

    It’s a step in the right direction, and that’s what matters here, that’s why this movie was so important. Maybe next time they’ll be braver, and decide to give their main character some flaws and make her more well rounded without fear of retaliation from the public.

    But for the time being, Moana is much more important than Doug has discussed in the review above. It doesn’t matter that it was a safe film or a formulated film. The fact that the movie was made at all is so important to so many people who’ve been waiting years to see representation on the big screen.

  23. Ah almost exactly my thoughts, thanks. I loved the visuals all throughout a film – but I’m generally crazed for landscapes with water. But other than that, there was really not much else to the movie sadly.

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