Starring: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson (voices)
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Rating: PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements
Playing at: Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)
The latest Disney animated endeavor "Moana" is full of charm, a gorgeous-looking film that is full of life with some engaging leads and a snappy soundtrack by "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Auli'i Cravalho voices the title character, a head strong daughter of a Polynesian chief who is drawn to the ocean despite her father's objections. When her village is in danger, she ignores her father's wishes to head on a journey across the waters to find the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and set on on an adventure to save her village.
Directors Ron Clements and John Musker are no strangers to the successful Disney formula, with "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "The Princess and the Frog" among their previous projects. They are right in their element here with a film that borrows a bit from all three of those films.
Moana makes for a strong female lead, an independent young woman who is asked to gather the strength to save her village. Johnson gets to provide comic relief as Maui, evoking the same type of humor and scene chewing that made Robin Williams genie in "Aladdin" such an iconic character.
Johnson also gets to show his singing chops in the musical number "You're Welcome," one of several songs penned by Miranda for the soundtrack. The songs have a "Hamilton" influence, providing "Moana" with a bit of an edge. There is also a show-stopping number involving a crab voiced by Jermaine Clement from "What We Do in the Shadows" that adds to the fun.
"Moana" doesn't quite soar to the same heights as this year's other Disney release "Zootopia," but it is still a quality holiday film for the whole family.
Also in theaters
While the families will likely flock to "Moana," one of the more adult options this weekend is "Bad Santa 2" (D) - the sequel to the 2003 cult holiday hit that tries to be more offensive than its predecessor, but fails to be as funny.
Ultimately it's a return visit that is more than a decade too late.
"Bad Santa 2" picks up with alcoholic, small-time criminal Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) at the end of the rope, alone and on the verge of suicide. Things start to look up when former criminal accomplice Marcus (Tony Cox) shows up with a proposition for a big time score – a potential two million dollar haul from a charity in Chicago.
Willie agrees, but immediately regrets the decision when he learns that the third person in this scheme is his estranged mother (Kathy Bates).
"Bad Santa 2" tries to recapture the mix of vulgarity and underlying sweetness that made it the ultimate anti-holiday film. Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross's script does amp up the crudeness, but the laughs are minimal at best. Thornton and Cox look like they are sleepwalking through their roles, while Brett Kelly returns as the bizarre child from the original – now an even more bizarre adult (in one of the film's flailing running gags).
The addition of Bates does nothing, while Christina Hendricks is also wasted as the new love interest, replacing Lauren Graham (who wisely chose to skip this debacle).
Plot holes are glaring, even more noticeable thanks to the series of flat one-liners and any fleeting moments that do work are usually followed with long stretches that just lie on the screen like a fruitcake that gets re-gifted multiple times.
"Bad Santa 2" does at least fit its name – it is bad.
"Bad Santa 2" is R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.