If you wear a dress, and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.
So the great Demi-god Maui (the one and only Dwayne Johnson) informs our titular heroine Moana (newcomer Auli’I Cravalho). And he is of course right. Moana is after all the Chief’s daughter and destined to rule her people making her royalty. Moreover, she’s the singing heroine of an animated Disney film, and that’s always automatic princess.
But Moana in other ways isn’t your typical princess. Being an Ancient Polynesian she never wears a gown, she lives in a hut rather than a castle, and there’s no prince on her horizons. In fact, she doesn’t even want one; Moana’s great dream is to sail beyond the Reef of her home island and reclaim her people’s history of voyaging. No Moana’s story is one of Adventure rather than Romance. She’s been Chosen by the very Ocean itself (depicted here as a living entity and fabulous character in its own right) to save her people from the growing darkness. Shape-shifting Demigod Maui, stole the heart of the earth goddess and loosed horrific monsters upon the world. Moana is set to make him return the heart and stop the threat. Maui takes some convincing. It’s the old couple pairing but Johnson’s hilarious portrayal of his cowardly lion/braggart demi-god and Cravalaho’s fresh earnest presence, find new joy in the formula.
And Disney has some creative tricks up its sleeve; twists and turns in the narrative that deepen the story, and visuals that can literally take your breath away. The color scheme of Moana is so rich and vibrant at times you can almost taste it, with the ocean waters incandescent. But then they find new ground as well in such techniques as Maui’s living tattoos that tell stories. A bioluminescent land of monsters with a giant bling-ed out Crab. A creature of living Lava and flame. It’s an embarrassment of riches that needs to be seen on the Big Screen. So this holiday season, take a break from the cold and dark and board Moana’s boat across the Polynesian islands.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Aloha! Disney’s next big animated epic Moana (featuring Dwayne Johnson as the famed Hawaiian God Maui himself) comes out November 23. Clever timing not only to release a family friendly movie around the holiday season, but also now that the weather’s getting darker and chillier to beguile audiences with one of the world’s dreamiest tropical location shots. In fact Hawaii has long been the setting for a wide variety of movies including the following.
From Here to Eternity (1953) Fred Zinneman (Oklahoma! High Noon, A Man For All Seasons) directed this adaption of the James Jones novel. The film follows the personal issues of three U.S soldiers stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. The all-star cast sported Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra as the three men while Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed played the women in the their lives. The supporting cast included Ernest Borgnine, George Reeves, and Claude Akins, among others. Small wonder it was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won eight including Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra) and Supporting Actress (Donna Reed). It’s also now considered one of the best films ever made and the scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach is a cultural icon.
Blue Hawaii (1961) First and foremost among Elvis’s legendary Hawaiian films is this musical comedy. Chadwick Gates (Elvis) is a returning veteran whose mother Sarah Lee (Angela Lansbury) wants him to take over the family fruit company. Chad instead goes to work as a tour guide at his girlfriend Maile’s (Joan Blackman) travel agency. Reviews were mixed but the healthy box office receipts inspired the studio to send Elvis back to the Big Island for two more films Girls! Girls! Girls! and Paradise Hawaiian Style. Meanwhile the movie’s soundtrack spent twenty weeks at #1 on the Billboard Pop Album charts and was nominated for a Grammy as well.
The North Shore (1987) Rick Kane (Matt Adler of Flight of the Navigator and White Water Summer) is a teenage kid from Arizona who uses his winnings from a wave tank surfing contest to fly out to Hawaii in hopes of becoming a surfing pro. He quickly learns the real ocean is a lot different than a wave tank and he’s got a lot to learn. Fortunately he comes under the tutelage of legendary soul surfer Chandler (Gregory Harrison). The film has gone on to become a cult hit for its awesome surfing sequences and use of real life professional surfers like Corky Carroll, Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton, among many more.
Picture Bride (1995) Kayo Hatta directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Picture Bride with Mari Hatta. It follows a young woman named Riyo (Youki Kodho) who arrives in Hawaii as a “Picture Bride” for a man she’s never met before. To Riyo’s disappointment her intended Matsuji (Akira Takayama) turns out to be considerably older than she anticipated. Meanwhile, racial tensions and labor disputes are rife on the sugar plantation where Riyo and Matsuji work. Critically acclaimed with an over 80% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, it also won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Descendants (2011) Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, Nebraska) directed this comedy-drama starring George Clooney and adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Land Baron Matt King (Clooney) is considering selling a land trust of 25,000 pristine acres his family owns on Kaui. While this is going on his wife Elizabeth is now in a coma because of a tragic boating accident and Matt is shocked to learn from his eldest daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley in the role that launched her career) that his wife was having an affair. It won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and two Golden Globe awards for Best Picture and Best Actor for Clooney.
Top photo: Bigstock