Though Moana‘s title character is obviously in the lead role, the film’s biggest star is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who voices the demi-god Maui. Based on an actual figure in Hawaiian mythology, Maui is said to have wielded a giant fishhook, raised islands from the deep, lifted the sky, slowed down the sun and invented the coconut tree.
Johnson is a hoot in what’s essentially the genie role from Aladdin with a lot more tattoos. But unlike Robin Williams, he complements the film more than takes it over.
While Moana’s father tells her their people have never ventured beyond the island reef, the truth is (SPOILER ALERT) Polynesian people have been beast-mode explorers for generations. Just imagine how ballsy you have to be to venture into the open ocean with no idea what, if anything, you’ll find.
And then you’re rewarded by finding Hawaii! Respect.
Every Disney heroine has her signature song, from Ariel’s ‘Part of Your World’ to Mulan’s ‘Reflection’ and Elsa’s ‘Let It Go.’
For Moana, it’s ‘How Far I’ll Go,’ a yearning, soaring ode to following your heart. Moana wants to find adventure on the high seas but her father, the island chief, allows nobody beyond the reef. It’s the age-old struggle between security and freedom, whether it’s in the Polynesian islands or Miranda Lambert’s small-town Texas.
I have an informal rule saying any movie that makes me choke up or tear up automatically leaps to the top of my year-end top ten list. I’m not easily moved so I have to give credit where it’s due.
If you look at the list to the right you’ll see that Disney’s animated film Moana currently sits in the top spot. It’s there for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is the lump I get in my throat every time I listen to its soundtrack, the same one I got sitting in the theater watching it for the first time.
This Laurie Berkner duet with Tom Chapin is indeed a happy song, but I wouldn’t call it the happiest song I know.
For starters, I would submit that Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ is a happier song than this. R.E.M.’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ is, too. And those are just songs with “happy” in the title.
Way back in ’09, I did a week of happy songs that included the R.E.M. tune as well as Simon & Garfunkel’s ’59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)’ among others.
The title track from Belle & Sebastian’s third studio album, 1998’s The Boy With the Arab Strap, is a quintessential B&S song. It’s delicate, quietly rollicking, precious but snarky, unmistakably the work of this wonderful, improbable band.
Lead singer/songwriter Stuart Murdoch took the “Arab Strap” reference in this song from a Scottish band of the same name. He didn’t realize it referred to a device used by men to maintain erections.
Wrapping up a rather mediocre batch of ‘What the Kids are Listening To’ is this week’s Billboard #19, Hailee Steinfeld’s ‘Starving.’ Not a bad way to go out, I guess.
As I write this, I’m heading out shortly to watch Edge of Seventeen, which I fully expect to enjoy. I was in awe of Steinfeld in her first major performance, her Oscar-nominated turn in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit. She’s without question a fine actress.