‘Moana’ Review Roundup: Lush Animation Wows Audiences
Moana, directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker and Chris Williams, follows a Disney princess of sorts, but one who is definitely in need of no man. She is one tough cookie who will one day take her father’s place as Chief of Polynesian island Motunui. She leaves home against her father’s wishes following an ecological disaster, and brings with her two bits of comic relief – her dimwitted chicken HeeHee and silly demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson).
The animation is top-notch, filled with bright colors clever cartoonish fun. The music is composed by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, which gives the film even more relevance today. Moana (voiced by Auli’I Cravalho) gives a refreshing take on the Disney princess trope – all her actions are inspired by her own dreams and aspirations, and the film doesn’t even feature a love interest. The film has thus far scored a 99% on rottentomatoes.com, and this PG movie will meld itself into hearts alongside it’s fellow Disney contemporaries.
MOANA REVIEW ROUNDUP
“The plot is similarly syncretic, a mélange of updated folklore, contemporary eco-spiritualism and tried-and-true Disney-Pixar formula… And, as usual, you succumb to an enjoyable experience that splits the difference between mythology and merchandising. Moana is an inspiring heroine, a smart, brave and decent young woman whose individual aspirations align perfectly with a larger, world-saving mission. She is also an exuberant and appealing self-marketer, whose likeness will proliferate on school bags and under Christmas trees for a long time to come.”
–A.O. Scott, New York Times
“Happiness , joy and all that abound even in dire circumstances, of course, and Moana — voiced beautifully by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho — gets a show-stopping Broadway-type number, a la “Let It Go” from “Frozen” (it’s “How Far I’ll Go,” so be ready to hear your kids sing it for the next few months). But it’s nice to see a female character defined by her own dreams and ambitions, not someone else’s — and especially not a guy’s. …You’ll enjoy the ride. Moana is a welcome step forward in its message and its look, and for young women characters in this type of film. It’s a way without many satisfying twists and turns, but forward nevertheless.”
–Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral.com
“Beauties and Snow Whites of Disney eras past. But Frozen also had strapping young Kristoff to balance out all the power estrogen—as if two women in charge would otherwise be one too many. And that is precisely what makes Moana more the heroine’s tale we need—arguably more than the Frozens, or Tangleds, or The Princesses and the Frogs. Even Mulan, Disney’s only Asian princess, had to disguise herself as a dude to skirt serious self-image issues and blatant sexism. Moana, at last, is allowed to simply be. Raised from birth to inherit the chieftainship, she is reminded constantly that she is capable and strong and given such confidence to lead the men and women around her from an early age that her ability to do so is never in question.”
–Jen Yamato, thedailybeast.com
“Jared Bush’s script gracefully balances a number of different storytelling elements — including pleasant but not-strictly-necessary songs, some written by “Hamilton” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda — without losing sight of the vivid central character. I suspect Moana’s adolescent struggle to figure out who she is and what is her place in the world will ring true for lots of kids, no matter what their own heroic struggles may be. The movie marketing truism is that girls will go to movies about boys but boys won’t view movies about girls. I hope this entertaining and inventive movie, in which not only the protagonist but also her mentor and a key opponent are female, can prove that wrong.”
–Chris Hewitt, TwinCities.com
“Paying respect and homage to the Polynesian culture and its ancient mythology, the Walt Disney animation Moana is as culturally rich as it is entertaining. That means this gorgeous movie works equally well for adults and for the children who are, of course, the target audience. Expertly rendered through digital animation— including breakthroughs in how ocean water and mounds of hair were made more realistic — Moana operates at a high standard on both the technical and artistic levels.”
–Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun