You’ll probably never be able to afford tickets to Hamilton, but Disney’s about to offer you the next best thing: Moana, the House of Mouse’s newest animated movie with a soundtrack scored by Hamilton maestro Lin-Manuel Miranda.
When a curse by the self-absorbed demigod Maui (voiced by real life demigod Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) leaves her people starving, Moana, a Polynesian island chief’s daughter (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), sails off on a quest to squash the beef. But Maui finds her first, and ends up becoming her mentor, guiding her to fulfill her destiny as a wayfarer (basically a human GPS) and continue the voyages of discovery her people began a millennium ago. It’s got all the right Disney ingredients, but is Moana satisfying enough bite into on Thanksgiving weekend? To help you decide, here’s what the critics are saying.
For Kids: Moana features catchy music, cutting-edge animation, a good deal of standard Disney fun in the form of silly animals and smart lessons. But this ain’t your standard mouse-eared movie, where the main character is waiting for some chiseled prince to take her away. “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,” writes Entertainment Weekly’s Devan Coggan. Or, as USA Today’s Brian Truitt puts it: “So what if she’d rather be a sailor than a princess? Moana still rules.” It turns out when they’re not swearing like a one-of-themselves, sailors make great role models for kids.
For You: It seems Moana can do no wrong. Critics are universally praising the story, soundtrack, and animation of Moana, as well as pretty much everything else about it, too. Michael Rechtshaffen of the Hollywood Reporter writes that it’s “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.” And Buzzfeed News’ Alison Willmore says it’s “…better than any other Disney movie to date.”
Common Sense’s Take: Common Sense Media is the leading nonprofit source for helping parents make movie and TV choices for their children. Their review cites Moana’s “perseverance, curiosity, and courage” as reasons why she’s an empowering character for young kids, and praises the fact that — for once — we’re getting a Disney plot that doesn’t revolve around its heroine’s marriage prospects.
Bottom Line: Moana is peak Disney, and the title character is the animated feminist role model you and your kid have been waiting for. Get ready to play the soundtrack on repeat.
Running Time: 113 minutes