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Moana (2016)
February 26, 2017, 5:01 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

Director(s): Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker & Chris Williams
3.5 Stars
moanaTeasing the plucky girl who has traveled far to request his help, Maui (Dwayne Johnson) argues that, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess!” If Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) indeed meets the conditions of her archetypes and the film itself is a rather typical hero’s journey (it is directed by old Disney hands John Musker and Ron Clements), Moana is progressive regardless in a way that doesn’t become overbearing or too self-congratulatory. It is important that Moana has no love interst and that it is a topic of conversation that is never really engaged. Beyond her self-dependence, however, her quest to upend the conservatism of the elders in her community by breaking known “truths” demonstrates something beyond the mythos of “destiny” and offers a message about how women can pave the way for the future. In the way that she confronts the lava monster Te Ka, it becomes clear that brute force or even cleverness is not the most admirable of qualities that should be attributed to a hero (which Maui, in addition to his arrogance, has in spades). Rather, Moana is about how empathy is the guiding force in defending against evils, with Moana’s heart serving as the ultimate weapon. The film does not undermine her own formidabilities, but rather distinguishes her as a fully-rounded, ever-adaptable heroine.

Big Hero 6 (2014)
November 23, 2014, 3:01 pm
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Director(s): Don Hall & Chris Williams
3.5 Stars
Big Hero 6Big Hero 6 is Disney’s first adaptation of a Marvel comic since their acquisition of the superhero behemoth five years ago. In many ways, the film feels like an entry-level helping for future fans of the genre–it’s a kid-friendly Guardians of the Galaxy, replacing a lovable talking tree with a lovable talking marshmallow. That is to say that it also has much of the same strengths and weaknesses. The 14-year-old prodigy at the center of the picture, Hiro (voiced by Ran Potter), is an affable blend of snark and determination, and he’s well-matched by the exceedingly altruistic Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). When a scene’s content involves their connection–a friendship that was born as a way of helping Hiro cope with grief–the film soars. On the other hand, the genius turned super villain backstory and the protracted action climax feel stale, no matter how visually inventive the film’s setting of San Fransokyo might be. Consider the unique action sequences of My Neighbor Totoro–which this film owes something to in the way it develops the relationship between a child and rotund simpleton–which are a far cry from the pedestrian city destruction that occupies the final half hour.