As a feminist mother of daughters, I have often bitched and moaned about Disney movies—in particular, the archaic princess fairytales that captivate my girls. Cinderella sits around and waits for her prince to come. Sleeping Beauty is saved by a kiss from some dude she doesn't even know. Belle falls in love with her kidnapper. I could go on.
So finally, Disney makes a movie so fresh and modern that not only is the heroine strong and self-reliant, but she doesn't have a love interest. Not even a flirtation! Which is an epic leap forward.
And also a little boring to watch.
At least for me.
I wanted to love "Moana." Certainly, I loved aspects of it. It's visually gorgeous. The music, much of it written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of "Hamilton" fame, is a lot of fun. And Moana herself is spunky, adventurous and determined—the epitome of girl power and a totally great role model for anybody's daughter.
Maybe I actually need the ballgown and the love story and the kiss to feel satisfied.
The story is rooted in some cool Polynesian mythology and the characters are likable enough, but absent the typical princess trappings, we are left with a story about a girl sailing a boat. And sailing some more. Did I mention it's almost two hours of sailing?
The good news is, my kid absolutely loved it. And obviously, Moana killed at the box office. So why couldn't I get into it?
Maybe at my age, having been raised on the classic princess movies, I am so conditioned to expect certain cliches that something feels missing without them. Maybe I actually need the ballgown and the love story and the kiss to feel satisfied. Maybe I 'm just used to seeing female heroines in romances, not in action-adventures. At least my daughters will be spared the same brainwashing, thanks to films like "Moana."
Then again, the storyline didn't exactly grab me by the coconuts. Rather than facing one supervillain, Moana meets and conquers a series of unrelated, one-and-done villains, which I felt worked against suspense. And while it's cool for Moana to be totally platonic with her male sidekick, the gruff and funny demigod Maui voiced by The Rock, couldn't they have at least sung a duet? They might have shared a boat, but it felt like they were on totally separate oceans.
I do think it's possible to make a riveting Disney "princess" movie without a love story. Remember "Brave"? Merida turns her mom into a bear. That was some interpersonal drama! "Moana" needed more of that. But I applaud Disney for trying.