The day after Christmas, the kids and I went to see Moana (mild spoilers ahead).
Now, I’m going to start off by saying that I very much enjoyed Moana. I want to say that right off the bat, because I’m going to send some mixed messages in my review here.
Moana was perfect in every way. A little TOO perfect. Like, so perfect that it almost falls into the “Uncanny Valley:
the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.
I don’t just mean the plastic-skin-eyes-too-big-for-the-head-Bratz-style animation, I mean everything about it. This movie is as formulaic as formulaic can be. I played this game with Sara:
Me: “I bet you can guess every single thing about the movie without me telling you.”
Sara: “Is there woman-empowerment?”
Me: “Plucky girl with a hilarious sidekick? Check!”
Sara: “Let me guess…she has to go on a journey. To find herself.”
Sara: “And someone important to her dies, like maybe her dad.”
Me: “Her Grandma! Check!”
Sara: “And there’s a guy…”
Me: “…and they don’t get along at first! But they’re stuck together so they have to make the best of it!”
You get the idea.
It feels like every movie Disney has made for the past 20 years has been leading up to this. Each Disney Frankenstein has gotten closer and closer to fooling the Turing test, and now they’ve finally cracked the code. They took every good part of every Disney movie, learning each time what worked and what didn’t, and then somehow mashed them all together seamlessly.
And the worst part is? It works! It’s such a good movie! You would think that a movie that follows this closely to the script would have no heart, but it does have heart! And a great soundtrack! (yes, I am aware that Lin Manuel was involved, and I am not exactly an unbiased source, but) And jokes where there should be jokes and sadness where there should be sadness and not a single hair out of place.
And it totally works. I’m like one of those birds that can be tricked by a superstimulus into feeding some other hatchling while my own babies starve.
I know I’m being manipulated, and I still like it anyway. DAMN YOU WALT DISNEY!