Blu Tuesday: Moana and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.


Disney has been on an incredible run of form lately, comfortably outperforming sister studio Pixar over the past five years with films like “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Frozen” and “Zootopia,” and that trend continues with “Moana.” Although it’s structured as a rather traditional hero’s journey, the movie sets itself apart thanks to more progressive characters that break from the typical Disney stereotypes. Both leads are great – Dwayne Johnson is super charming as the demigod Maui, while newcomer Auli’i Cravalho more than holds her own in the title role – and the soundtrack (co-written by “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda) is packed with infectious tunes that give “Frozen” a run for its money. Also boasting some of Disney’s most detailed and vibrant animation yet, “Moana” is an instant classic that only gets better with each viewing.

Extras include an audio commentary by directors Ron Clements and John Musker, a series of featurettes on the movie’s technical achievements, interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, two short films and much more. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Movie Review: “Moana”

Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Jemaine Clement, Temuera Morrison, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Scherzinger
Ron Clements & Don Hall

By all rights, Disney has been kicking sister company Pixar’s butt on the animated film front for the last five or six years. This is due to two unrelated events: Former Pixar chief and current Disney chief John Lasseter brought The Process with him from Pixar, where instead of putting one or two people in charge of the story, a group of writers will work on the story until they have ironed out any potential kinks. At the same time, Pixar hit a point in their release schedule where they were working almost exclusively on sequels (with only one of the non-sequels, 2015’s “Inside Out,” good enough to stand alongside Pixar’s best work). This left Pixar vulnerable, and while Pixar was by no means out, they were down, and Disney seized the opportunity. In the last four years, Disney and Pixar have each won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, though if you ask us, “Wreck-It Ralph” was robbed at arrow point by “Brave” in 2012, and the real tally should be 3-1 in Disney’s favor.

This brings us to “Moana,” coming out in a year where Disney and its many subdivisions have completely conquered the box office. (They own the top four spots on the worldwide box office rankings, with the recently released “Doctor Strange” at #9 and climbing, and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” still waiting in the wings.) One wonders if releasing three animated films in one year proved to be a strain on the brain trust, because The Process let “Moana” down. It’s fun, and it’s beautifully rendered, but it is a far cry from “Zootopia” in terms of story, a farther cry from “Frozen” in terms of musical numbers, and it pales in comparison to both in terms of emotional weight.

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