Unlike earlier Disney animated features, Moana has little to recommend it. The songs are forgettable. The acting is serviceable, with Auli’i Cravalho playing the title roll, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voicing Maui, the Polynesian Loki. Temuera “Jango” Morrison does some solid voice acting as Chief Tui, and Rachel House voices Gramma Tala, who is probably the most interesting character.
Other than musically, Moana fails in the writing. The typical story of a youth who ventures out and encounters the otherworld, the land of the gods and monsters, is recast with a girl, Moana, in the role of the hero. What a twist! Her father, on the other hand, is a craven coward, and even threatens to destroy the tribe’s ocean going canoes. These were essential to the culture, as when an island became overpopulated, brave men and women would venture forth in them to find a new one.
Moana’s character is completely masculine; she is fearless, and yearns for adventure. We are constantly told that she is not a princess (which in Polynesia, she would have been) but will be the future chief. There are also scenes where Maui questions her abilities because she is a girl, but she constantly proves him wrong. This comes off as heavy handed virtue signalling. If you want to gender bend a piece of mythology, you need to do so with finesse that was not shown here.