Moana review round-up: Critics heap praise on Disney 'delight'

Disney’s latest is getting rave reviews ahead of its anticipated release, with critics heaping praise on the “crowd-pleasing oceanic musical” ‘Moana’.

'Moana’ is about a young Polynesian woman of the same name (Auli'i Cravalho), who travels to a fabled island, aided by her idol, the legendary demi-God Maui (Dwayne 'The Rock’ Johnson).

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This first round of reviews arrives well ahead of the film hitting cinemas on 2 December, with more reviews to be expected in the run-up to release.

Here’s what the critics have said:

The Hollywood Reporter

“Screenwriter Jared Bush, who also penned this year’s 'Zootopia’, and the quartet of directors manage to work in plenty of offbeat humor at every inventive turn.

But if Moana boldly ventures beyond the reef, so, too, does the breathtakingly beautiful animation break fresh visual ground. Letting the natural light of the sun and the moon inform virtually every textured frame, the film boasts backgrounds that are awash in phosphorescent greenery and shimmering blue waters.

Equally strong are the tunes; you can definitely hear Miranda’s inspirational hip-hop stylings in songs like 'You’re Welcome’ and 'How Far I’ll Go,’ which, if not quite as catchy as 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ and 'Let It Go,’ come pretty darned close.“

The Guardian

"Moana’s 'know who you are’ message is the sort of thing we’d probably want our children to hear, and there’s a pleasing resonance in the way the movie transmits ancient folk knowledge via digital means. But Disney has set a high standard lately.

“'Frozen’ defied its fairytale template by swerving into matters of sisterhood, 'Big Hero 6’ pulled off a clever trans-Pacific cultural fusion, and this year’s excellent 'Zootopia’ was both a snappy, original comedy and a valuable primer in identity politics.

“'Moana’ never quite reaches these heights. Its cultural setting is fresh; its storytelling, less so. It navigates the reefs but it doesn’t discover a whole new world.”


“The dynamic between Moana and Maui deepens as the story unfolds, revealing her to be one of Disney’s most remarkable heroines yet: Rather than waiting for her prince (or whomever) to come, Moana takes control of her own destiny.

"Still, there’s a simplicity to the plot here that feels like a step back from the narrative complexity of some of Disney Animation’s recent achievement — most notably 'Zootopia,’ whose elaborate mystery plot left room for a powerful social message.

"Considering these two movies side-by-side, one can see how far the toon studio has come in recent years, and rather than judging them against one another (an exercise required only of Oscar voters), there’s something to be celebrated in the way 'Zootopia’ advances the storytelling possibilities of animation, while 'Moana’ demonstrates how Disney has gotten its mojo back. As princess movies go, this one broadens the studio’s horizons, and as Moana herself sings in the film, 'no one knows, how far it goes.’”

Empire Magazine

“There’s the odd dull stretch and dud line: 'When you have a bird to write with, it’s called tweeting,’ is unlikely to age well. It turns out, though, that Polynesian mythology and the House of Mouse go together very well indeed. Between 'Moana’ and 'Zootopia/Zootropolis’, it’s been a banner year for Disney Animation. Pixar, watch your back.

"A crowd-pleasing oceanic musical with big tunes and beguiling characters, Moana is likely to thwack a big smile on your face. And did we mention the idiotic chicken?”

Entertainment Weekly

“'Moana’ has a lot of the hallmarks of your classic Disney adventure — the goofy animal sidekicks, the feel-good messages — but its heroine is something new, a smart and fiery deviation from your standard European lovestruck princesses. (Thankfully, Moana doesn’t have a love interest.) The result is a pitch-perfect addition to the animated Disney canon.”

Picture Credits: Disney