‘Moana’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying About Disney’s Latest


Just days away from its AFI Festival premiere, Disney’s CG-animated film”Moana” recently screened for critics.

The film is being widely praised for its visuals and music. Several critics are calling it a step in the right direction for Disney. Check out what the first critics are saying about the film below:

IndieWire’s Eric Kohn gave the film a B rating, saying the film is not perfect, but “this colorful Disney production feels like a step in the right direction for the studio.”

Kohn’s main issues with the film stems from the plot. He writes:

Of course, this is the Disney version of an old routine, which means that much of the plot plays it safe. No matter its astonishing visual sophistication, nothing on ‘Moana’ reaches the level of ‘The Red Turtle,’ another animated island-based adventure coming out this year… Instead, ‘Moana’ manages to be a cut above studio-produced animated fare while remaining safely within its margins, and in that context it’s a welcome addition.

TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde agreed, calling the film “mostly business as usual.” He says:

Unwilling to fix what ain’t broke, Disney hews pretty closely to their usual narrative structure in ‘Moana,’ while at the same time further expanding their geographical boundaries far from the original Germanic fairy tales that provided the studio’s stories for so many decades.

However, he praises the writing of the title character:

And much to its credit, the screenplay (credited to five writers, including Taiki Waititi of ‘Wilderpeople,’ ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ and the upcoming ‘Thor: Ragnarok’) makes Moana an interesting, self-actualized character. She’s not waiting around for a prince, and there’s no question that her gender will stand in the way of inheriting the title of chief.

The Guardian’s Steve Rose echoed these sentiments, saying, “Culturally accurate and with a pleasing ‘know who you are’ message, this South Pacific adventure tale nevertheless settles into empowerment cliches.”

The Hollywood Reporter heaped praise on the film, with nary a complaint in sight. Michael Rechtshaffen 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.

Entertainment Weekly’s Devan Coggan loved the film as well, giving it an A- rating, saying:

‘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.

Meanwhile, Variety’s Peter Debruge cautions the tendency to compare “Moana” to Disney’s other release, “Zootopia.” He writes:

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.”

The film is about an adventurous teen who sails out on a mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage. Along the way they encounter enormous monsters and impossible odds. In addition, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her identity.

“Moana” premieres Nov. 14 at AFI Fest. It opens nationwide Nov. 23.

Tell us: What do you think of the first “Moana” reviews? Do you think this affects the film’s awards chances? Let us know in the comments below!


What do you think?

72 points

Written by Lauren Huff

Lauren Huff is a film and awards geek. When she's not writing about film and the industry, she's drinking coffee, reading mystery novels or hanging out with her husband and stinking-cute puppy. She's reported from the red carpets of Austin Film Festival, SXSW and various film premieres. Her work has appeared in several outlets, including Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, Us Weekly and more.

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