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Moana: Movie Review

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Moana is a stunning movie from Disney Animation about a young girl on a Polynesian island set 2,000 years ago, who feels called to the ocean, even though her people have given up ocean navigation for generations due to the dangers of the open sea.

Moana is the chief's daughter and is preparing to one day be the leader of her people on their peaceful island. However, her desire to be out on the open ocean troubles her father, who's afraid she'll be killed. Moana's grandmother warns her of impending doom that may happen to their people because of a legendary story that's been passed down by generations.

As the story goes, in the beginning, the earth was just water, until Te Fiti, a beautiful island, rose from the ground. Te Fiti brought life to the earth and prosperity, and at the heart of the island was a stone that was believed to give the ability to create life itself. One day, a demigod named Maui, a trickster and shapeshifter, decides to steal the heart of Te Fiti. Right as he does so, a giant lava-monster named Te Ka confronts him, and Maui loses the stone and his special ties to the ocean. With the stone separated from Te Fiti, death begins to creep into the ocean. (For more plot spoilers, go to

As they face the ocean, Moana must learn who she is, what her calling is, and Maui must become the hero he already thinks he is. Can they save humanity from impending doom?

Moana has incredible animation that makes even the ocean a moving multidimensional character. The bar is continually being raised, and Moana meets the standard and then some. Added are wonderful voice performances from Dwayne Johnson as Maui and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho as Moana. With catchy tunes and beautiful music in Polynesian style, Moana is a sheer crowd pleaser.

That said, Moana has some problem areas, mostly in that much of the movie focuses on Polynesian paganism and mythology. A culture of polytheism, there's a demigod as a major character, references to reincarnation and "mother earth." Also, Moana even converses with her grandmother's spirit at one point. Unlike Kubo and the Two Strings, however, which was practically a sermon for paganism, Moana is more of an homage to Polynesian culture. Regardless, the spiritism isn't worth glorifying, and it's why many missionaries risked their lives bringing the Gospel to Polynesian cultures, which ended up impacting many islands in positive ways that still have effect today.

On the positive side, Moana has some moral, redemptive values as the heroine. For example, she exhibits strength, kindness, selflessness, sacrifice, and a desire to protect her people. She also encourages Maui to be his best, a hero who'll give up his own self interest for the well being of others.

Moana has a few scary moments, especially with the lava monster fight sequences and some light toilet humor. This, along with the movie's mythic pagan elements, requires a caution for children.

Editors note: Before Moana is a hilarious short movie about a man with a boring office job who's inside organs come to life in a way not un-similar to Inside Out. The brain primarily keeps the man going, keeping him safe and healthy, but at times, his heart wants to take the lead and do fun things, like swim in the ocean and eat pancakes. However, the brain envisions this leading the man to death. In the end, the brain decides to let the heart take the lead and give the man some joy.

The short is very unique and funny, and even includes shots of a priest praying over a grave with a cross when the brain envisions the man's death. The only caution is some toilet humor and maybe a light Romantic emphasis on letting one's heart control you.

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About The Author

MOVIEGUIDE® was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ted Baehr, past president of the Episcopal Radio & Television Foundation and former director of the Television Center at the City University of New York. MOVIEGUIDE® is affiliated with the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry (CFTVC). Both MOVIEGUIDE® and CFTVC are dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment industry, according to biblical principles, by influencing industry executives and artists and by informing and educating the public about the influence of the entertainment media and about how to train their families to become