10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘Moana’

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Disney’s newest animated feature, Moana, hit theaters this weekend. If you’re thinking of taking the kids (and of course you are), here are some things to know.

1. What’s it about? 

The movie’s title character is the daughter of the chief of a village on a small Pacific island. He thinks that the island can provide everything his people need, and so has set a rule saying that no one can travel beyond the reef that protects the island. Moana, however, has something of an independent streak in her, and wants to go out and see the world. Eventually, she’s driven away on her adventure by an ancient legend that the demi-god Maui stole the heart from some other goddess and unleashed the powers of darkness, and now Moana, in possession of the heart (a small green stone), must find Maui and get him to return the heart.

2. Will my kids like it?

Almost certainly yes. I went with my 14 and 11 year olds, and both enjoyed it. There are plenty of laughs throughout, several silly minor characters, including the world’s dumbest chicken, and lots of singing.

3. Will I like it?

I enjoyed the movie myself. I didn’t like it quite as much as Frozen or Big Hero Six or Wreck-It Ralph, as I felt it lacked the real emotional punch that those had. But it’s still a fun movie to watch. I don’t think you’ll be bored.

4. How’s the music?

Really good. As you’re probably aware, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda composed many of the songs, and his signature style is present throughout. The songs are almost entirely upbeat and fun. I’m not sure any will have the staying power of something like Let It Go, but overall I wasn’t disappointed in the music.

5. Is Moana just another Disney princess movie?

There’s a funny sequence about mid-way through where Maui and Moana argue about whether or not she’s a princess at all, which spurs the funniest line from the film. In as much as she’s the daughter of a chief, I guess technically she counts (and she has way more claim to that title than Mulan), but in every other way this is very far from your normal princess movie. Significantly, there’s not a single character in the entire film who is trying to find love. Whether or not Moana is even interested in romance is never brought up (it’s also hard to tell exactly how old she’s supposed to be.) The movie is really a classic hero’s journey, just with a female hero, and not a love story.

6. What’s it rated?

The movie is rated PG for “peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.” I can see how some of the scenes in the first act when we find out about the forces of evil, and in the last act when our heroes fight said forces of evil, might be scary to very young viewers, but the theater I saw the movie in was crowded with lots of little kids and I certainly didn’t hear any crying or screaming or anything during those scenes.

7. Is it worth seeing in 3D?

I saw the movie in 2D and enjoyed it just fine. It didn’t seem like the kind of movie that would be made better in 3D, so I’d probably have to say to spend those extra dollars on soda and popcorn rather than 3D.

8. When can I sneak out to the restroom?

The movie clocks in at just under 2 hours, so you or the little ones may need to go. There are quite a few sequences in the middle of the movie when Moana and Maui are sailing across the ocean that you can skip without missing much.

9. Is there a short before the movie? How is it?

Yes, there’s a short called Inner Workings that precedes the movie. It’s cute–and infinitely better than Lava. It follows a day in the life of Paul, a man working at a soul-sucking job near the beach. But what makes it fun is that we’re actually seeing his, well, Inner Workings. The star of the short is his brain, which functions entirely to keep him from dying any one of a dozen or so imagined deaths. But the brain is in conflict with his heart, which just wants to have fun, and some other organs as well like his stomach and bladder.

10. Is there anything after the credits?

Yes, there’s a short sequence at the very end of the credits that is definitely worth staying for.

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