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Moana review: misses a beat

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In her recent film review of Moana, Tasha Robinson describes the film as "the perfect Disney movie". In the process she loses sight of its many flaws.

Robinson claims the animated movie is "refreshingly free from groan-inducing stereotypes". By doing so, she seems to excuse the studio's blatant errors and racist pigeonholes, some of which she also helpfully lists: "a Maui costume that looked suspiciously like a brownface suit; early complaints that Maui’s thick build was a Samoan stereotype — and telling lapses, like making Maui bald".

While she says Moana gets "an idealized yet believable body" apparently there is nothing remarkable about the crude caricature of Maui, who is depicted as an outsized tatooed hulk. Yes, Disney is a cartoon studio that normally seems happy to knock out holiday fare with breathless action and two-dimensional characters. But having low expectations and a back catalogue of dross shouldn't give them a free pass when they do manage to assemble an entertaining tale or portray an empowered female lead.

This is a flawed movie and far from the best from Disney. The Verge needs to be more measured in its review of commercial cinema, especially when it misappropriates legends, imposes ethical ideals on indigenous people and treats culture as an object of curiosity. Moana does not deserve praise as the height of animated entertainment and movie makers such as Disney should be called out for their cultural imperialism.