Movie review: Disney’s “Moana”

This image released by Disney shows characters Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, right, and Moana, voiced by Auli'i Cravalho, in a scene from the animated film, "Moana." (Disney via AP)

On Nov. 23, Walt Disney Studio’s latest animated film, “Moana” was released in theaters. Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, “Moana” opened with the story of Maui, a demi God played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Maui, who has the power to shapeshift, stole the “the heart of Te Fiti” which contained the power of creation. Maui’s actions released a curse that slowly stretched across the islands, killing crops and fish.

Many years into the future, Moana’s grandmother tells her the story of Maui and Te Fiti. Moana, voiced by newcomer Auli’I Cravalho, is next in line to be chief of her Polynesian village. Although she loves her people, Moana can’t help but be drawn to the open ocean. Tragedy begins to strike as Moana’s village starts to feel the effects of the curse, limiting the food sources available to the people on her island. Moana later learns that she was chosen by the ocean to find Maui and bring him to Te Fiti in order to restore her heart, lifting the curse on her island. The remainder of the film follows their adventure on the open ocean in a story that is not lacking in comedy, fun or heart.

“Moana” featured stunning visuals and animation that has become synonymous with Walt Disney Animation Studios. It is apparent that Disney spared no expense in their attention to detail, animating “Moana” in the same style as hit films like “Tangled” and “Frozen”. This highly detailed animation created a beautiful setting, providing realistic visuals ranging in all sizes, from large boats to stray strands of hair on Moana’s head. The ocean was also beautifully animated in this film, stressing the importance that water held in the movie.

Johnson’s larger than life performance as Maui gave “Moana” humor and heart. Johnson effortlessly lent his voice to the character, showcasing Maui’s strength and presence as a demi god while also humanizing Maui throughout the events of the film. Auli’I Cravalho also stood out in “Moana,” with her performance as the titular character. Although it was Cravalho’s first major film, her performance as Moana truly brought the character to life, as she was easily able to provide a wide array of emotions to the Polynesian princess. Cravalho also did not hold back during the musical numbers, showing off her vocal talent.

The only downside of the film, however, was the musical numbers. Although the music, written by “Hamilton’s” Lin Manuel Miranda, was catchy and entertaining, it lacked the “wow factor” seen in past animated Disney films. The performances by the wide array of voice actors were able to redeem these musical numbers, but I doubt that any of the songs from “Moana” will reach the same level of fame as “Frozen’s” “Let It Go.”

All in all, “Moana’s” detailed animation, voice actors and storyline were highpoints of the film, but the songs lacked the “wow factor” that is now expected of Disney Studios. However, the music does not detract from the overall film experience, making Moana a great family film to check out this holiday season.

Rating: 8/10


Lauren Brown is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.