Moana is going to be another hit animated movie from Disney as they try to recreate their recent successes like Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. Set in a Polynesian paradise, it is the story of the titular characters, an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people with the help of a demigod named Maui.
Here are the top five reasons to check it out (in no particular order):
• It is directed by the team of John Musker and Ron Clements, who also directed The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and The Princess and the Frog. It is their first time directing a computer animated film
• It features the voice of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who also sings in the movie.
• It features the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the acclaimed creator of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. He is one award away from what is called PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony). He has all except for an Oscar and if he wins one for Moana, he would only be the third person in history (after Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch) to have done so.
• Moana is voiced by Auli’i Cravalho who, at 14, was the youngest actor to provide a voice for a Disney Princess. She was one of thousands of girls who auditioned for the role and not only is she from Hawaii, this is her acting debut.
• Moana is the second Disney Princess whose story is not based on a fairy tale, nor does she have a love interest. The first was Merida from Brave.
While Moana may not be as big a hit as Frozen, fathers of young girls can probably expect to hear the soundtrack ad nauseam for years to come (I still cannot ‘Let it Go’).
Director Robert Zemeckis has had a hugely successful career with movies like Romancing the Stone, the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, The Polar Express and Flight. His newest is the stylish noir-thriller Allied starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as an intelligence officer and a French Resistance operative, respectively, during World War II. After they team to assassinate Nazi officers, they begin a passionate love affair but the pressures of war test their relationship. Fans of classic film noir might appreciate the look and feel of this romantic adventure especially since it opens in 1942 Casablanca.
Another period piece from another acclaimed Hollywood filmmaker opens this week with Warren Beatty writing, directing and starring in Rules Don’t Apply. Set in 1950s Hollywood, it is a romantic dramedy about an aspiring young actress (Lily Collins) and her ambitious young driver (Alden Ehrenreich) whose relationship is challenged by the eccentric Howard Hughes (Beatty). Beatty has enlisted an impressive cast including wife Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Dabney Coleman, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen and more.
And finally, Billy Bob Thornton returns in Bad Santa 2. The sequel to the 2003 hit crude comedy is said to be even more crass than the original. Fans of the original will be pleased but will likely miss the presence of the late John Ritter and Bernie Mac.