ALL TOGETHER NOW has a very generic first half but the move is saved with its emotional 2nd half and a strong performance by Disney’s Moana…err, I mean Auli’i Cravahlo. And when I say a generic first half, I mean generic. Per IMDB’s log line of the film: “An optimistic high schooler with musical aspirations must learn to accept help from her friends to overcome her personal hardships and fulfill her dreams.” I mean…in the words of Chandler Bing…could that description BE any more generic? Let’s try Wikpedia’s description…shit, it doesn’t have one…well what about Rotten Tomatoes?: “An optimistic, talented teen clings to a huge secret: She’s homeless and living on a bus. When tragedy strikes, can she learn to accept a helping hand?” There we go, a little better. IMDB’s log line and All Together Now’s generic poster of Moana and her friends together and laughing in the back of a van is very misleading. Those friends, other than the male love interest, are hardly even in the film. To go a bit further with the description of the film, she’s homeless with her mother and she’s lives in a bus because that is the mother’s job, a school bus driver, and they come back late at night when no one is at the lot and fall asleep in the seats. There are plenty of things that the movie gets wrong in the first half. It’s all very cliched dialogue of how Moana is a good person, doesn’t ever accept help and can hide her secret by distracting people from conversations; of course her mom wants them to move back in with her drunk and abusive boyfriend, and you know the scene where they are supposed to get caught sleeping on the bus to advance the plot further? Nope, not there. Apparently it just happens to the mom off screen and she just tells her daughter they can’t stay there anymore because she was caught and fired. There are also several narratives of a school talent show that Moana was organizing to get the school band a new tuba and then her cliched relationship with a stubborn old white lady (played at least to perfection by the great Carol Brunett) in a retirement home that seemed like it is going through the standard cliched motions. But then the movie sucker punches you, hard. Very hard. Something happens that you don’t see coming.
And I’m not going to reveal it here. You’ll will know what I mean if you decide to take a chance on it. After that low blow punch in the feels, the movie completely pivots, and even though is still a tad predictable where it ends up going, there were still some surprises in store I didn’t see coming, the narrative earns your emotions, and the dialogue and acting from others start to match Moana’s and bring everything together to a solid close. Part of the movie reveals that Moana is a really talented musician (no shit?), and even though she is poor, she gets invited to audition for a top tier music college and she has to fly to Philadelphia for it. And while I guessed correctly some of the threads that were going to end up happening with that trip, I made a grand prediction what would happen to the climax with it, and I was dead wrong. I’m glad the narrative proved to me that I was going a bit too fast with it. All in all, this is actually a half way decent one time watch from Netflix, and if the plot and narrative don’t end up winning you over, Auli’i Cravahlo’s performance definitely will. She is more than just a voice actress, and I’m glad she has proven herself. Looking forward to more (and hopefully better) live action projects in the future. Speaking of performances, Fred Armisen has a bit part in this as one of Moana’s teachers. It is the most straight laced I’ve ever seen in a performance from him, as he’s a weird human being in general. However…some of that weirdness still seeped through and I wish they had cast someone else in that small role. This movie happens to be based off a novel (and he co-wrote this screenplay) by Matthew Quick, who also wrote the novel which was turned into a masterful movie called Silver Linings Playbook. The novel also has a better title than this movie, “Sorta Like A Rock Star,” which makes more sense in the long run the further the movie chugs along. Silver Linings Playbook this is not, but I guess the silver lining to that is maybe it just didn’t need to be. It’s fine on its own.