Eh, It’s Alright (Moana review)

But what do you do if a movie is critically acclaimed, everyone loves it, and all you feel is an underwhelming meh when you think about it?

That’s the question on my mind today dear readers, and we’re about to find out why.

 

 

 

Moana (2016)

Cast: Auli’li Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyck
Director(s): Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
released on blu-ray March 7, 2017
****** 6/10

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Audience Score 90%
The Guardian: ****/*****

 

Ron Clements and John Musker have directed a number of Disney Classics, from The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, to less popular choices Hercules, Treasure Planet, and The Princess and the Frog. Don’t get me wrong dear readers, those last three movies are all still good movies, just not as compelling as the first three.

Ron Clements and John Musker also directed Moana. Which has been critically acclaimed and much beloved by the general public. But I am just not that impressed by it.

Co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams have a much smaller portfolio, having both worked on Big Hero 6, with Williams co-directing Bolt, and Hall co-directing Winnie the Pooh.

Disney has a history of bringing on several directors for the their films, given the huge teams of people needed to animate their films. Ultimately most of the weight falls on Clements and Musker, and they seemed like the logical choice. But I personally feel like they’ve lost their touch and haven’t really got it back. Heck, they may never get it back.

In the past I would have said that this was largely due to how dull the jokes felt and how ridiculous the characterizations were, but the reality is that those classic Disney films suffer from those problems too. No, the problem with this film is that it plays too safely to a well worn narrative, this time self-congratulating its team members for heavily researching their characters people they portray, in the hopes that they can serve up a fresh batch of disney princess without doing anything innovative.

It bothers me to no end that this feels like yet another rip on Hawaiian culture, while profiting from the people it represents. Yes it’s beautifully depicted and the songs are lovely, but who cares about these generic characters?

Anyone remember Lilo and Stitch? That was an entertaining movie and it was, as they say, authentic. Am I the only one that finds it ironic in one movie breath we hear Lilo say “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind,” and then in another movie breath we get to witness Moana completely go against tradition like oh so many heroes and heroines before her?

And let’s not forget the literally showstopper of a crab voiced by Jemaine Clement and called Tamatoa. He halts the story but good during his time on screen. Which is frustrating because he could have been a really fun supporting character.

Last, but certainly not least when we finally do meet Maui, he’s certainly not a caricature, but he’s definitely not likable either. He’s a bit of jerk with a thin character arc.

I wish the hear of this movie had a better body to house it in, because never really engaged with me at any particular point.

Pros: It’s refreshing to see a lack of a love interest in a Disney story  as done previously in Zootopia and Frozen. And the visuals are amazing. It truly feels like a getaway from the typical fare.

Cons: While it does move away from the love interest trope, it relies so heavily on other established ideas that it becomes evident fairly quickly where the story hasn’t taken any chances. It’s characters are not one-dimensional, but they aren’t engaging either.

Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes

Points of InterestWhile the film is entirely digitally animated, Maui’s tattoos were hand-drawn into the animation, making Moana a first in over five years to feature true animation. Moana is the first Polynesian of the Disney Princesses.

I realize now that I didn’t get you much of a summary of the film, and for that I am kind of sorry. I really needed to go on a rant about this film. Because I don’t want more them to be made. 100% we should continue to support female protagonists who aren’t dictated by their personal relationships, but that doesn’t mean they need to revisit all of the other tropes that male leads have done over the past 100+ years of film.

End rant.

theories Summarized

What do you think? Did you like Moana? I hope I haven’t been too harsh on this movie. It represents a positive direction, and if Disney can help change minds with its depictions, I’m all for it. I just want to see Moana fight an internal battle or two, have some nuance in her performance. But thats my theory, after all.

Tim!

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello (Aloha review)

Okay readers, I have a confession to make. I don’t want to like The Beatles.

Like at all.

“The Beatles? How can you not like The Beatles?!?!” That’s probably what you’re thinking.

I don’t know, I generally just do not care for their music. It probably stems from some traumatic experience I had as a child with a beetle. Yes, there a lot of fans out there which kind of weigh heavily against my one little opinion, and their lyrics are pertinent in so many instances, almost perfectly pairing with topics and it seems like everything else and everyone else is constantly referencing them too.

But we can theorize about The Beatles cultural significance some other time.

So I guess timotheories has to find a way to like this band, or at the very least, be inclusive of them. So I can make a point.  Not unlike some certain imaginary characters that I just met for the first time recently.

Come on Tim, what are you getting at now?

Well folks, I’m going to take it to the next level, yet again. Yesterday I talked about introducing reviews into my regimen, and this is another piece of the puzzle. That’s right, timotheories is going to begin its regular review of movies that I am watching as they are released – whether its in the cinema or for the home, and fingers crossed, on a weekly basis.

Conveniently for you, that Beatles reference and the blog post name will now make sense – I’m going to start with the movie Aloha.

I’m still playing around with how to format these reviews but it goes a little something like this.

Aloha (2015)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin
Director: Cameron Crowe
released on blu-ray August 25, 2015
**** 4/10

aloha-poster

Synopsis: A celebrated military contractor returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs and reconnects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watch-dog assigned to him.

IMDB: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 19%, Audience Score 31%
The Guardian: **/*****

Cameron Crowe is known for a few really solid movies over the period of a decade. Unfortunately that decade has come and gone – it was between 1989-2000. T

hat doesn’t mean his pass at Hawaii is irrelevant.

With a star filled cast, its hard not to at least enjoy the characters in Aloha. But my biggest challenges with the movie were the connections that were never properly made between characters. It’s equivalent to that old adage of ships passing in the night. Every character has the potential to pull us in, but the interactions are sterile.

The move takes place in Hawaii. After a bit of backstory is built for Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), in which he describes how he underwent some work challenges after the recession of 2008 and moved from the military into contract work, we are immediately introduced to John ‘Woody’ Woodside (John Krasinski), who is flying Brian in for a gate ceremony on the island of Hawaii. When the plane lands, we learn that Brian’s ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) is there and central to island funerals. It also turns out that she is Woody’s wife.

Great, the stage seems to be set for a love triangle and some heated words between Brian and Woody!

Then we are introduced to Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a resident of the island who happens to work for the Air Force, is subordinate to Colonel ‘Fingers’ Lacy (Danny McBride) and General Dixon (Alec Baldwin), and tasked with watching Brian.

Even better – conflict from his old job, with hilarious authority figures, and an opposites attract scenario.

Lastly, we learn that the man whom Brian works for is Carson Welch (Bill Murray) and he is giving Brian this opportunity to save himself from previous disaster.

Bill Murray, people. How can you not be excited for this?

Sadly, as I mentioned, none of these relationships really stretch and grow in the ways that I was hoping they would. Granted, there are some funny jokes here and there, but nothing especially lasting or quotable.

My favourite parts are probably the interactions between Cooper and Krasinski. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that Krasinski’s character doesn’t speak much, and with some clever use of subtitles, we get a laugh out of it.

And there are a couple of other great details that shouldn’t be ignored either. For instance, we don’t see a dissolve of the established marriage in the film, as per typical Hollywood demands, which is a very nice change of pace, and a bit of a spoiler (my apologies). Also the reason why Brian has been contracted by Carson Welch isn’t very clear up until the end of the movie, but it raises an interesting point about the future of warfare, sadly without ever REALLY saying anything about it.

I really didn’t care for the lack of direction regarding the Hawaiian lore elements either. It just seemed thrown in there, and it would have been nice had the lore been made more mystical and relevant from the get go. Instead we are treated to factoids and opinion instead of something “happening” to convince us of the supernatural. Also, the Hawaiian indigenous people are a nice touch, but why don’t they play a more prominent role?

Running at 105 minutes, the movie feels too long for what we get, but if it were even 15 minutes longer, with more story, it might be a significantly better experience. I won’t recommend this for the average movie goer, but if you are a cine-file, you might benefit from some of the concepts and themes the film explores, knowing that it will come up short.

And there you have it! My first movie review. I hope you enjoyed my post. I look forward to hearing your feedback. Leave some comments and questions. Next week should be an age old tale… Curious?

Out of theories for now, check back soon!

Tim!