Moana (2016): A Lovely Addition to the Disney Formula

This week brings us the next animated feature from Disney, Moana!  As always, the following review will be spoiler free.

Background

Moana is directed by Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, and Don Hall and stars Auli’i Cravalho as the title character and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui.  Moana follows the daughter of a Pacific Islander chief named Moana (obviously) as she begins to take a leadership role among the tribe, guiding the other members during jobs such as harvesting coconuts and catching fish.  However, when crops begin to die leaving her tribe in danger, she must sail across the sea and enlist the help of the demigod Maui to save her people and defeat a legion of mystic creatures along the way.

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image via Disney Movies UK

The Disney animated formula is most certainly in solid form with the last Walt Disney Animation Studio film being Zootopia which was released earlier this year.  Disney animated movies are always beautifully colorful and have great messages for the younger viewers in attendance.  Zootopia was filled with fun characters and surprisingly had more to say about race and class relations than you could ever imagine.  It’s easy to say that every Disney animated movie is a must-see at this point.

Also, when you add The Rock to the Disney formula, you’re guaranteed to have a fun time at the movies.  The newly voted sexiest man alive oozes charisma every time he’s on screen.  On the press tour for the movie, The Rock discussed how important this movie is for Hollywood, allowing a minority group that is rarely seen in cinema to shine in a possible blockbuster.  Johnson, who’s mother is of Samoan descent, is clearly passionate for the material, and great movies come from a passionate creative team.

What I Liked

I have to say that Moana isn’t necessarily great, but it is very good.  The Walt Disney Animation team continues to outdo themselves from a technical perspective.  The animation in Moana is absolutely breathtaking to watch.  The island settings along with the crystal clear ocean are full of vibrant colors and beautifully rendered characters.  Moana should be seen in theaters just from a visual standpoint.

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image via Yining Karl Li

The voice work was great all around, but I need to give The Rock extra credit for his performance as Maui.  This was a perfect casting choice for Maui, a larger than life demigod.  He brought all the fun, energy, and hubris needed of the character.

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image via Notey

What I Didn’t Liked

Moana is not without its flaws, however.  You’ve seen this story line of self-discovery from Disney time and time again, even if it is in a new setting.  I would have maybe let this flaw go if the movie didn’t try to hit you over the head with its themes.  At some points in the beginning parts of the movie, I even got annoyed by how not subtle the dialogue was pertaining to Moana and her growth as a character.

While the argument can be made that Moana is made for a younger audience and it doesn’t have to contain the most clever script in the world, I would counter that recent animated movies such as Inside Out or Zootopia have done a far better job of mixing in heady themes into a kid friendly premise without making it so blunt.  In my opinion, adults may get less out of Moana than other notable animated movies.

Conclusion

However, that’s not to say that Moana is not an enjoyable ride.  Moana is full of memorable songs which are sure to get some type of Oscar recognition on the future.  The talented Lin-Manuel Miranda (image below) did a fantastic job of creating and executing the musical numbers.  The movie even poked fun at the music which I thought was very funny and refreshing.

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image via OOYUZ

Overall, Moana is a solid entry into the Disney animated canon even with its flaws.  For its efforts, Moana receives a B+.

Thanks for reading!  What did you think of Moana?  Comment below and let me know.

What should I review next?  Whether it’s old or new, the choice it s up to you!

Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to grow his own movie knowledge as well as share his own thoughts with others in a streamlined fashion. As MovieBabble continues to grow, Nick hopes to one day become a reputable critic that many turn to first for a quality movie review.

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1 Response

  1. First review I’ve read for the film. Would never doubt that the film would be at least decent. Ever since John Lasseter came to Disney from Pixar (Tangled and on) they have got everything right.

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