Movie Review: Moana

Manila, Philippines – Disney’s  new animated musical  Moana is truly entertaining! A start-to-finish delight. It stands proud and tall with other animated films on the Disney canon: from its breathtaking visual effects, delightful music, superior animation, and likeable lead characters. 

I watched Moana on its opening day in the Philippines, November 30, 2016.

Walt Disney Animation Studios, once again, solidifies a new era in their studio as they continue a string of supreme animated films started by 2009’s Princess and the Frog and 2010’s Tangled.


From the day Disney have announced doing a film called Moana, I was always on a lookout. Originally Moana was scheduled to be released sometime in 2018. But suddenly it was moved to 2016 – and my excitement suddenly was doubled.


Moana is about a daughter of the chief named Moana who quest the ocean with a  demi-god named Maui – to save her people and restore her ancestors’ tradition.

The plot may sound a little simple. But there will be twists and turns and emotions as you watch the whole movie which is almost 2 hours long. 

There will be backstories, musical numbers, adventures that will keep you glued on the screen. I would say, Disney still followed the formula they’ve used with Tangled and Frozen here – but of course- still offered something new: something remarkable.

It has many great moments – especially the musical numbers. Something you would want to see again and again when it comes out on home video. But there was a slight slow in the middle as Moana and Maui sails.



The characters are very likeable. The lead heroine Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli’l Cravalho) feels warm, authentic, and relateable. She is more than a pretty face as she resonates light and goodness – which makes her even more watchable.

Maui the Demi-god (Dwayne Johnson), on the other hand, is this huge guy who projects courage and authority – but at the same time – is the humor of the movie. And he has an amazing tatoo. 

As Moana and Maui teamed up, their effortless chemistry sparks onscreen ala “Rapunzel and Flynn” or  “Anna and Kristoff” minus the romance. The banter between Moana and Maui are genuinely hilarious. 

Supporting characters are great too. Most notably Tala, Moana’s grandmother. I’m not a fan the crab, but still, he did great performance.

And I think it’s worth mentioning that the little Moana is just the cutest Disney baby ever.

And someone needs to talk about that dumb chicken sidekick. Well, kids in theatre is bursting to laughter everytime he would appear onscreen. He’s cute and colorful and was voiced by Disney’s lucky charm Alan Tudyk (who appeared on several Disney features like Frozen – he is the duke. And he also appeared in Wreck-It-Ralph – he is King Candy. Both films are successful). I like comic relief he gives. Kids love it.

Memorable characters.



The music of Moana was written by 3 persons: Mark Mancina (Tarzan) wrote the satistfyingly beautiful score, Opetaia Fao’i and Lin Manuel-Miranda (Hamilton) wrote the songs.

Whenever there’ll be a new Disney musical, it can’t avoid the fact that it will be compared to other songs from other Disney movies (well most of them reached the classic status already). 

Moana’s soundtrack has this tropical-island-feel blended with musical theatre – which sounded fresh for a Disney movie (though 2002’s Lilo and Stitch had this flavor too, minus the musical theatre).

There’s some showstoppers here like Under the Sea and Be Our Guest: “You’re Welcome” performed by Maui. It’s cool and fresh, upbeat – with some verses of rapping. It’s accompanied by a beautiful eye-popping visuals in the movie. It’s my favorite musical number in the movie. I wish it was a little longer. The tune will stick in your head. 

There’s also this How Far I’ll Go performed by Moana herself. In tradition of Disney, there’s this song the lead character would sing. She or he will share her/his dreams, wants in a song : it’s called an “I Want” song. Part Of Your World, Belle, Just Around the Riverbend, Out There, Reflection are examples. So here in Moana it’s How Far I’ll Go. The song is good also. I love the tune. Actually I like singing it. The problem -again – is it’s hard to catch the words.  Everytime i’ll sing it, I always need to check on the lyrics – And i’ve been doing it a lot of times and still can’t catch on. And it’s not a song you’ll understand instantly when you first heard it. But in the movie, somehow you’ll get some clues on what the song is about when you are seeing it onscreen rather than just listening on it. 

I love the deep emotions in the song I Am Moana and Know Who You Are.

The other songs are good as well. They help moving the story forward. It has authentic tropical-feel. But it’s not memorable. It’s not something you’ll sing out loud.

The musical score on the other hand is lovely too. I like the richness and the lush on it. But it’s not that distinctive from other movies. 

I was expecting a more “Disney” soundtrack.

There’s a  pop version of How Far I’ll Go on the end credits. It’s good. But personally I prefer the movie version.



The CGI animation of Moana is probably the best Walt Disney Animation Studios had ever done! The forest, the island, AND THE SEA are superiorly animated! Moana herself is wonderfully animated. Her face, her hair – its fascinating. And the colors are rich. It’s like it’s bursting onscreen. The effects on the sea when light passed on it is so magical. I was amazed. It’s really good.



Yes. I would love it see it on 3D. I only saw it in 2D. And there are moments in the movie I would love to see again.


The animation, visual effects, characters, story, and music – makes this animated film worth seeing!




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