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  • Writer's pictureStephen Yanni

Moana (2016) - The Heart of the Ocean

Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5 Stars)

Released 11-23-2016

Watched 06-23-2024

Reviewed 07-03-2024

Watched on Disney+

"I wasn't born a demi-god. I had human parents. They took one look and they decided... that they did not want me. So, they threw me into the ocean like I was nothing. Somehow, I was rescued by the Gods. They gave me the fish hook. They made me...Maui"

“Moana” is a visually stunning and heartwarming animated film from Disney that follows the journey of a brave young girl, Moana Waialiki, who sets out to save her island from an environmental catastrophe. This film, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, beautifully combines Polynesian culture with Disney magic, resulting in an epic adventure that captivates audiences of all ages.

The story begins with Moana, the spirited daughter of the chief of Motunui, who has always been drawn to the ocean despite her father’s insistence on staying within the reef. When the island’s resources begin to dwindle, Moana sets sail beyond the reef to find the demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Together, they embark on a journey filled with mythological creatures, stunning landscapes, and a quest to restore the heart of Te Fiti, a goddess who can heal the world.

One of the standout aspects of “Moana” is its breathtaking animation. The ocean, a character in its own right, is rendered with such detail and fluidity that it almost feels alive. The vibrant colors and meticulous attention to cultural details immerse the viewer in a rich, enchanting world.

The voice performances are top-notch, with Auli’i Cravalho delivering a standout performance as Moana. Her voice is both powerful and tender, capturing the character’s determination and vulnerability. Dwayne Johnson brings his signature charm and humor to Maui, making the demigod both larger-than-life and relatable. The chemistry between the two leads adds depth to their adventurous partnership.

Another highlight is the soundtrack, featuring songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina. Tracks like “How Far I’ll Go” and “You’re Welcome” are catchy and integral to the storytelling, expressing the characters’ emotions and motivations in a way that dialogue alone could not.

“Moana” excels in its storytelling, blending humor, action, and emotional depth. The film’s themes of self-discovery, bravery, and environmental stewardship resonate deeply, offering valuable lessons for young viewers while still engaging adults. The pacing is well-balanced, ensuring that the story remains engaging from start to finish.

While “Moana” hits most of the right notes, it does follow the familiar Disney formula, which might feel predictable to some. However, the cultural authenticity and fresh perspective provided by the Polynesian setting and characters give it a unique edge.

“Moana” is a triumphant adventure combining stunning visuals, memorable music, and a heartfelt story. It celebrates the strength and resilience of young women, the importance of heritage, and the power of believing in oneself.


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