Moana Review

  • Directing6
  • Writing5
  • Acting7

Disney Animation's latest film Moana isn't nearly as memorable as previous studio efforts, but solid voice work by Dwayne Johnson and Auli'i Cravalho make this tropical adventure amusing at the very least.


Disney Animation has failed yet again to capture that same effective high last seen in Zootopia and Frozen with their latest tropical adventure Moana, featuring the voices of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho. Moana isn’t a bad film, but it does suffer from a lack of memorable characters, an off-balanced feel and a predictable climax. First, The Good Dinosaur failed to deliver and now Moana struggles to impress. Should we be worried yet?

I know my opening paragraph may sound a bit harsh, but I’m just being honest with my genuine feelings towards Disney Animation’s latest film Moana. I’m all for animated films that are exciting and full of adventure, especially ones that feature the voice of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, yet here I sit, typing my somewhat disappointed review of Moana.

That disappointment mostly comes from Moana‘s lack of a well-balanced direction. The film credits a slew of people as writers/directors, including Chris Williams, Don Hall, John Musker and Ron Clements and the film totally feels like a project with too many cooks in the kitchen.

I’m aware that animated films often-times have multiple directors, but Moana is one of the first Disney efforts that actually feels like a jumbled mess of ideas.

Is it an ocean adventure film, a musical or a self-discovery film about a young girl finding her place among her people and among the oceans and stars?

I’m not exactly sure, because the film rarely sticks with one notion before quickly jumping to the other.

The opening twenty or so minutes of Moana are truly beautiful, capturing the tropical islands with a sense of warm adventure and a shroud of mystery as we learn all about the main character Moana (Cravalho) and her yearning for the sea and what lies beyond the reef.

We’re also introduced to the demigod Maui (Johnson) and his mystical ways that are occasionally comical, but mostly just confusing.

From there, Moana spreads its wings and becomes a high seas adventure as the two team up to stop a terrible curse that has left Moana and her people without food and hope.

It sounds like a decent-enough concept for a Disney flick, yet Moana really does feel like a lot of bounced around filler.

Some of the musical numbers are truly awful, with not a single note-worthy song remaining, but a solid earache or two for sure.

There’s also a genuine lack of memorable characters, aside from Moana, Maui and her somewhat adorable chicken.

This leaves the film feeling lopsided and without a proper villain or a proper cause to move forward.

Some might claim me to be too critical towards Disney films, but I often consider Disney films to be some of the best of the year, from a writing and visual standpoint, yet Moana feels like a rushed production of good intentions, but very little heart.

It pains me to say that, especially being such a fan of Dwayne Johnson — he generally puts his all into any project he’s involved with and while his voice work in Moana is serviceable, it’s definitely not memorable.

Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho gives Moana a spunky sense of female empowerment that is perhaps the film’s greatest power, but even her talents feel slightly under-used once the film’s end credits roll.

That is because Moana feels like a film that’s entirely not sure what it’s trying to say, despite swinging for the fences on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, the end result is a strike out that is visually engaging and cute enough for the kids, but a film that’s lacking any real sort of depth or discovery.

This one is best left at the bottom of the ocean.

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