Moana Review


Disney has been on a critical and box office tear in 2016. Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Doctor Strange all dominated the box office and was a hit with critics as well. Disney Animation has been on a tear of their own as the studio is beginning to usher in another golden age of animated films. With two animated hits out this year, does Moana give Disney its first animated letdown of the year?

Nope! There is no letdown coming this year. Moana is a hilarious and gorgeous film that will warmly fill your heart and soul. In the current global climate, Moana’s quest to make the world a better place is something that the world sorely needs.

Moana follows Moana Waialiki (Auli’i Cravalho), the heir to the throne of a proud island community. When her community is in dire need of help, Moana must set off on an epic journey to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and fulfill the ancient quest of her ancestors.


Moana essentially doesn’t bring anything new to the table. If you’ve seen a Disney’s princess musicals before then the film becomes a bit simple and predictable. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As the old saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What’s exciting about Moana is that it’s able to respect the past while finding ways to move it all forward in a charming and engaging way. Screenwriter Jared Bush has taken Disney’s tried-and-true princess formula, something that has served the studio so well for many years, and is able to find new and invigorating ways of expressing it. Much of that comes from the attention to detail the filmmakers put to creating a story about the history and culture of the Pacific Islands. The folklore and island traditions that make up the story have been well-researched, including input from the natives themselves.

Upon that story, directors Ron Clement, John Musker, Don Hall, and Chris Williams paint the most beautiful film you’ll ever see this year. The beautiful ocean, lush jungle, flowy hair, fiery villain, and neon creatures all beautifully bring the mythic vision of the Pacific Islands to the big screen. Moana seems to progressively impress setpiece after setpiece.

But what makes Moana so entertaining and fun is its addictive soundtrack which is anchored by “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i (the lead singer of Te Vaka), and composer Mark Mancina. The soundtrack has a handful of classics that will infect your ears for a long time. The early, scene-setting “Where You Are” is a catchy tune that’ll definitely leave your heads bobbing in the theater. Auli’i Cravalho’s “How Far I’ll Go” is a soaring ballad that could rival Frozen’s “Let It Go.” Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i’s “We Know The Way” is the type of song that’s definitely a sing-along type. Truth be told, I had this song on repeat as I sang along in my car ride home. Unsurprisingly, “Mr. Can-Do-It-All” Dwayne Johnson is able to show off his vocal skills with the infectious “You’re Welcome.” Miranda and company perfectly crafted an optimistic soundtrack for the bright, positive film it’s scoring.


As you can expect, this film belongs to Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson. These two carry the film and their chemistry is incredible as the banter and friendship between Maui and Moana are hilarious to watch. Especially since these two characters are so different. Auli’i Cravalho impresses in her first acting gig as she brings out Moana’s emotional spectrum with her voice. With as many films that Dwayne Johnson has been in, Moana is Johnson’s best acting performance yet. He’s still his fast-talking self but certain emotional scenes really hit home with the way that he projects his voice. Equally impressive is Rachel House as Gramma Tala. In such a short amount of time, House’s comedic delivery and lovability will make audiences fall in love with her character.

Overall, it’s hard to find anything in Moana that doesn’t shine. It’s a positive, gorgeous, emotional, and heartfelt film that brings out a little bit of happiness during this long Thanksgiving weekend. There will be those critics that criticize the film for sticking to its routine fairy-tale formula, but the positives outweigh this slight negative. Get ready to set your imagination sailing across the gorgeous sea.

Rating: 4.5/5 atoms
NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

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