Drew reviews Disney’s Moana

The studio's newest movie brings incredible animation, awesome music, and a few twists to classic Disney magic.


Image: Walt Disney Pictures

Drew Huddleston, Staff Writer, Critic

Disney is truly a powerhouse in the film industry, boasting ownership of The Muppets, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. This year alone, Disney has made 2.12 billion dollars from films such as The Finest Hours, Zootopia, Pete’s Dragon, The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The BFG, and Doctor Strange.   That’s not even including Rouge One a Star Wars Story, which opens next week.

Maybe the biggest surprise this year for Disney, though, comes from its newest animated feature, Moana.  

Moana is directed by John Musker and Ron Clements. The story revolves around a young girl named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho). When she discovers that she is friends with the ocean, she sets off on a quest to save her island from a terrible disease. In order to do this, she must navigate the treacherous waters of the ocean and return the heart of the goddess Te Fiti’s (a small green stone) with the help of the legendary Demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

Moana is the first Disney musical since 2013’s Frozen. The team behind the music, Opetaia Foa’iand, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, put together an incredible soundtrack.  Fresh off his smash hit broadway musical Hamilton, Miranda’s expert rhyming skill really pay off, as the rhythm and rhyme of the songs flow beautifully. It is safe to say that Moana’s music will live among the greats.  

Beyond its music, Moana offers some truly breathtaking CGI. While the people and some of the animals definitely look cartoony, the animation of the ocean and islands is amazing. The animators put so much detail into the landscape that it could be mistaken for a live-action film.

Both The Rock and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho give excellent performances. Johnson gives a very funny performance. His role provides most of the humor of the movie. For the most part, it works. Maybe the funniest line in the movie is when Moana claims that she is not a princess. Maui replies, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” The line pokes fun at the long line of Disney Princess tropes.

Cravalho also gives a very good performance. Aside from her excellent singing, she really blended the frustrations, anger, sadness, excitement, and other emotions that Moana felt throughout the film.

The story, while original, is bogged down by some overused Disney conventions.  For example, we see that Moana wants to explore and not be the next village chief. She has an animal sidekick, a rooster named Hay Hay, that will probably made into a thousand different toys. There is an end of the second act drama between Moana and Maui that doesn’t add much to the story because it’s been done so many times before that the audience knows they will be fine. Other than that, the story is strong and easy to follow (good for the kids). The climax is breathtaking, thanks to the amazing animation and features a pretty good, unpredictable twist.

Overall, Moana features great animation, terrific, new songs, and awesome performances.

Grade: A-