Moana (newcomer Auliʻi Cravalho) is next in line to be chief on her tribe’s small island. But when food shortages loom she goes against her family’s cautious customs in search of more prosperous lands beyond the reef.
While beginning like a tropical Truman Show, once Moana gets out to sea it turns into something like The Life of Pi meets Waterworld. On her voyage she picks up self-described hero Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who once stole a jewel from a lava monster which released the life-sucking curse which threatens the island.
How people with limited technology populated the remote islands of the South Pacific is one of the most fascinating questions in history, and it’s a refreshing setting for a Disney film. But the magic would have been there without actual magic, thanks to the glorious rendering of the film’s beautiful oceanic paradise. Hair and water look particularly real, and the glistening tropics, under-sea sequences and lush vegetation make this a treat for the eyes.
The story feels more substantial than your average Disney animation, with its rounded vision of indigenous life and female adventurousness, as well as its ecological message, even if this is weaker than it could be due to environmental threat coming from a fantastical monster rather than humans. But with likable characters and upbeat songs this is an enjoyable watch which you might Moana watch again.