Most reviews have pointed out that while many story beats of "Moana" feel familiar -- especially the self-empowerment message at the movie's heart, not to mention the obligatory presence of a wacky animal sidekick -- it continues the Mouse House's recent animation renaissance, boasting gorgeous visuals, soaring songs, and fully realized characters. Here's a breakdown of some of the most glowing reviews so far:
Variety: Critic Peter Debruge calls the film "a musical adventure that's a worthy addition alongside 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Aladdin,'" and notes that the titular character (voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho) is "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." Debruge concludes, "As princess movies go, this one broadens the studio's horizons."
The Hollywood Reporter: "Moana" is "a delight," according to critic Michael Rechtshaffen, who writes, "Appealing equally to the eyes, ears, heart and funny bone, 'Moana' represents contemporary Disney at its finest — a vibrantly rendered adventure that combines state-of-the-art CG animation with traditional storytelling and colorful characters, all enlivened by a terrific voice cast." Rechtshaffen was especially impressed by the film's "infectious, soul-stirring songs by 'Hamilton' sensation Lin-Manuel Miranda along with score composer Mark Mancina and Samoan musician Opetaia Tavita Foa'i," adding that the music makes "Moana" "a tropical 'Frozen' with the potential for a similarly wide-reaching audience."
IndieWire: Critic Eric Kohn notes that Disney has taken great pains to avoid its previous missteps with cultural insensitivity, noting that "Moana"'s diverse creative team "yields a lively opus that feels at once old school and modern." The film does occasionally fall into some of Disney's well-worn story tropes, Kohn writes, but is ultimately "Visually dazzling and loaded with charm" and "an especially crisp realization of that formula, set in a rich world of bright colors, detailed expressions and buoyant songs, all of which revolve around the mission of fiercely individualistic young woman."
Entertainment Weekly: "Moana" is "a worthy successor to Disney's most beloved animated classics," writes critic Devan Coggan, who notes that the film also "pushes the genre into 2016, introducing a smart, diverse, and convincing heroine who struggles against lava monsters and self-doubt." While the flick "has a lot of the hallmarks of your classic Disney adventure — the goofy animal sidekicks, the feel-good messages," Coggan says "its heroine is something new, a smart and fiery deviation from your standard European lovestruck princesses."
"Moana" hits theaters on November 23.
[via: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, Entertainment Weekly]
Photo credit: Disney
An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity. Read More