A Great Message for Parents

Moana Movie Review

If you were not planning a trip to the movies this weekend to see Moana (Disney’s newest princess flick), I hope I can change your mind.

I have to confess that I wasn’t super excited about this film. I probably would have skipped it all together, but with Thanksgiving and family in town, Jody wasn’t able to make it so it was a chance for my husband and I to get out on a sort of date night.

We took the baby with us and drove up to Tampa the night before his birthday. It was sort of a date/pre-birthday celebration, and we figured that if the movie wasn’t great, we’d have an hour each way in the car to spend together, which is always fun for us. Plus, little Rhema Joy (who is 3 months old now) tagged along, and Matt and I always enjoy going out with the kids one at a time, even when they are babies. No one can gush over a little Stahlmann baby like we can, and it’s super fun for us to enjoy Rhema together. Besides, this is for sure our last baby until a grandchild comes along, so we relished the chance to soak her in together on our date night.

When the movie started, I was immediately impressed with the aesthetics. It is a gorgeous film, and with a bunch of Hamilton fans in my house, the influence of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the score was not lost on me. Joining with Disney composer-arranger Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i, the lead singer of the South Pacific fusion band Te Vaka, Miranda co-wrote a soundtrack that brings a new sound to the Disney repertoire. My husband is still walking around belting out “You’re Welcome!” — the song that the demi-god Maui sings when we first meet him.

I like a surprise in a movie. Actually, I like a lot of surprises. For me a good movie means characters I care about, a story that raises questions and answers them in sometimes unpredictable ways and a message that either challenges or inspires me. Moana had it all.

The message that resonated with me most was one that Jody and I often share with parents — children are not an extension of their parents; they are their own people with a calling and a purpose that is unique to each one of them. Our job is to help them discover that and prepare them for it. Moana’s parents were too afraid to let her be herself.


Here’s the story. Three thousand years before our tale begins, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one in Moana’s world knows just why. Well…almost no one.

Moana’s father is Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) of Motunui, a remote South Pacific island where the people live in blissful harmony. No one is to travel beyond the reef that encircles the island, but when the fish become scarce and the lush crops begin to wither away, something has to be done. Moana’s feisty (but wise) grandmother tells her the tale of Hawaiian demigod Maui, who stole the magical Heart of Te Fiti. He must be found and the heart returned for life to thrive once again in her village and throughout the lands of the Pacific. Maui is a surprisingly quirky character with his own quest to restore the magical powers of his fish hook.


Their quest is full of adventure, surprises and fun characters, including Tamatoa, a 50-foot crab who hordes bright, shiny things. Voiced by Jemaine Clement, I thought Tamatoa sounded like a mix of Tim Curry and David Bowie. 


If you’re planning to take very little ones, you might want to preview it first. There are a few parts that could be scary.  Also, if your family is sensitive to potty humor, you may find your feathers ruffled once or twice.

For Christian families who are afraid of introducing the polytheistic worldview of Moana’s Polynesian world, I would encourage you to use it as a teaching tool. Learn about this culture together. Compare Moana’s beliefs with your own, and explain why you believe what you do. This is a great opportunity to begin a discussion about apologetics.

Please come back and drop me a line to share your thoughts on the film, and let me know if you liked it as much as I did.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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