Thursday, June 29, 2017


Year 9, Day 180 - 6/29/17 - Movie #2,674

BEFORE: Day 2 of my Netflix Animation Raid.  This film (that my boss kept mis-pronouncing as "Mona") just became available on Netflix, it was added after I made my original plan, so I wanted to take the opportunity to see if I could work it in - this meant tearing apart the plan, and typing out all the credits again and color-coding the actors who appeared twice, with circles and arrows connecting them so I could chart the right path through them.

So, even though "Zootopia" had a large cast and gave me many linking opportunities - I could connect via Bonnie Hunt to "Cars 3", via Idris Elba to "Finding Dory", or via Jenny Slate to "The Secret Life of Pets" or "Despicable Me 3" - there was only one path (OK, two) that got me through 9 animated films instead of 8, so I'm following Alan Tudyk from "Zootopia" to "Moana" - even though he provides the voice of the chicken character here, that still counts.

The other piece of good news is that I was tooling around with some cast lists, just trying to extend the chain past the Spider-Man film, and I came up with a chain that's mostly Academy screeners and other Netflix films, but it gets me all the way to my Comic-Con break on July 19!  And it ends on perhaps the most appropriate film to watch before heading off to a Comic-Con.  I'll just have to deal with making progress on the rest of my list when I get back.  Right now I have zero plan for late July or August that doesn't start the back-to-school chain way too early.

THE PLOT: When a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches a Polynesian island, the Chieftain's impetuous daughter answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

AFTER: So it looks like it's going to be "girl power" week here at the countdown, and I'm fine with that.  That means another Disney princess character, though, because Disney doesn't seem interested in heralding the adventures of the 99% of girls who aren't born into royalty - overall that's a strange message to send to the kids.  If you're just a regular girl, and your Daddy isn't the king or the chief, no adventures for you.  But the one thing that a regular girl can empathize with, and this happened in "Zootopia" too, is that their parents are always going to be over-protective - "Don't move to the big city." or "Don't sail beyond the reef."   By extension, "Don't try to be something you're not." and "Don't leave home, because I'll miss you."   Where are the encouraging parents in animated films?

But really, it's all about overcoming obstacles, and parents are just another obstacle, right?  You're going to reach a point in your life where you move out, or get a job, or just run for cover because you can't take your parents particular brand of crazy any more, not if you're going to have a chance to find yourself and accomplish things.  (This never changes - I'm 48 and I can't spend more than three days with my parents before I get the urge to quit my job and just live in my old bedroom, but I know that this would be a very unhealthy lifestyle, and drive me insane in about a week.)

For Moana, this means fulfilling the prophecy of finding Maui and bringing him somewhere by boat, after her island is struck by a lack of fish and coconuts, brought on by a curse.  Hmm, no, it couldn't possibly be due to overfishing, or eating too many coconuts and neglecting to plant more trees, could it?  There was a teachable lesson here about sustainable farming and fishing, and Disney missed the opportunity. Nope, must be "the Gods".  What about being self-reliant, and not depending on the Gods to fix our problems?  That would be another teachable moment, how religion is all bunk, and we weren't put here to use up all our natural resources, and we've got to figure out the answers to our own problems, because God just ain't getting it done.

But since there is a precedent for co-opting a polytheistic culture's gods to make a Disney film (the Greek pantheon in "Hercules") they move forward.  God knows that Disney has already strip-mined most of Western literature for their story ideas ("Tarzan", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame") so they've got no choice but to move on to religion-based stuff.  But it would be weird if they made a story about Jesus, or Mohammed going on a quest, right?  Why is it OK to do something with the Hawaiian gods?  Because they're not as "real"?  This is crazy thinking, because ALL of the gods aren't real, so why make a distinction between the different faiths, and reduce some of them to cartoon characters, but not others?  Food for thought.

Anyway, rants aside, we're dealing with the nature gods here, like the Ocean is a character and then there's a volcano/fire god (correction: lava demon?) named Te Ka, who battled Maui back in the day, as he was stealing the heart of Te Fiti, whatever that is, and stranded him somewhere, like a thousand years ago.  Someone (most likely Moana) has to sail beyond the reef and find Maui, convince him to sail with her to ANOTHER island, and restore the heart of Te Fiti.  Jeez, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  Why does the quest need to be so complicated?  Even Frodo Baggins only had to carry ONE ring across Mordor and drop it in a mountain.  Here we've got a magic stone, a magic giant fish hook, a demigod who can turn into all kinds of animals, Moana has to learn how to sail a boat, navigate by the stars, find the thing, and then defeat the big boss level.  Plus there's a pig, a rooster and I think a head of lettuce, and her boat can carry only two of them at a time, and she's got to get them all across the river, or something.  Good luck with that...

Some of the songs here were written (or co-written) by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and though this film was released after "Hamilton" became a hit on Broadway, and it seems like DisneyCorp was jumping on the coattails of the hit Broadway musical composer, the reverse is true.  Miranda started working on these "Moana" songs in 2014, before "Hamilton" opened in 2015.  Then "Moana" was released in November 2016 and their initial move to hire this guy before he broke big then seemed like a really smart move.  I think I would have recognized his style even if I hadn't known that he worked on these songs, since my wife was playing the "Hamilton" soundtrack pretty much non-stop in the car all last year.

NITPICK POINT: When Maui turns into a giant hawk, where does his big fish hook go?  When he hits the water and turns into a shark, I think we see the hook drifting away, but when he's flying as a hawk, where is it?  Shouldn't he be carrying it in his big talons?  He obviously still has it, but is it inside him when he's a bird?  Consistency problems...

Also starring the voices of Auli'i Carvalho, Dwayne Johnson (last seen in "The Other Guys"), Temuera Morrison (last seen in "The Island of Dr. Moreau"), Jemaine Clement (last heard in "Rio 2"), Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger (last seen in "Men in Black 3"), with a cameo from Troy Polamalu.

RATING: 5 out of 10 Kakamoras

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