Probably the only saving grace of Disney's latest princess movie is the jab it takes at the whole concept of yet another Disney princess movie. There is a scene relatively early on during which the titular character (played by new comer Auli'i Cravalho) denies that she is a princess. She is asked "Are you the daughter of the king?" She replies yes... "Then you are a princess".


Despite Disney's move into the Marvel Universe and Star Wars, expanding the Pixar productions ("Toy Story 4", "Finding Dory"), and revisiting old stories by making them live ("The Jungle Book", "Beauty and the Beast"), they always return to their favorite cash cow - the princess movie.


The powers that be at Disney have determined that little girls are still into princesses - though in reality the number of real princesses has declined over the decades as nations move away from monarchies - and Disney will provide an endless supply of them. This is contradictory to a proclamation in 2010, after the less than cash cow "The Princess and the Frog" only earned $104 million domestically after they spent $105 million to produce it. Of course it made an additional $162 million on the foreign market, so it wasn't exactly a flop! But compared to "Tangled" ($591 million) and the later "Frozen" ($1.2 billion) it didn't put out like they expected.

So here they are again with yet another princess story with a somewhat shiny new wrapper. The put one in the icy realm, one in a native Irish realm, they dabbled in the fairy lands, so why not head out to Polynesia.


I'm guessing that since Dwayne Johnson is raking in more money for Hollywood than the law allows, his price tag is why he is the only recognizable name in the cast. He plays Maui, a demigod that steals a heart stone from an island god. This action causes the island god to releases its anger on all the other islands until that anger reaches the happy agricultural island where Moana lives.


Moana is drawn to the legend of Maui because her grandma, Gramma Tala (Rachel House) keeps telling the story regardless of the protests from her son, Cheif Tui (Temuera Morrison). He would rather she focus her storyies on staying on the island and staying within the protection of the coral reef surrounding the island. Naturally Moana has other ideas.

So exercising the same disobedience as Merida in "Brave" and Anna in "Frozen" and Tiana in "The Princess and the Frog", she ventures beyond her fathers warnings with the hope of recovering the heart stone with the help of Maui. Maui is stranded on an island and is useless because he is lacking his magic hook.


So, much like every other Disney Princess quest film, Moana must first get one to get the other. And of course, Maui is reluctant to go. Moana will have to use plot device child smarter than adult to get Maui to participate in her quest.


Along for the ride is the other Disney standard: the useless other character. In "Frozen" it was the snowman. This time its a ridiculous skinny chicken that will provide most of the laughs for the kids. Okay... the kids and adults.


Dwayne Johnson whoops it up as the egotistical Maui whose only reason for existing is to bolster his ego and earn tattoos. Is this Disney's next venture? Tattoos? They spend a lot of time promoting the concept of covering your body in tattoos. It certainly isn't the soundtrack, which sounds eerily like "Frozen", "Brave" and every other recent Disney film. The generic tunes will have you longing for Elton John ("Lion King") to churn out a soundtrack.


The animation is first rate of course and the story is derived from ancient Polynesian mythology, according to the studio. But quite frankly, I preferred the "Zootopia" and Disney's move away from the princess story. Oh well.


"Moana" is good entertainment for children while providing a chuckle or two for parents. But make no mistake, there is little original about this cookie cutter Disney Princess film.   -- GEOFF BURTON