Disney triumph again with this buoyant animated adventure, featuring Dwayne Johnson
Disney's 56th animated feature is a spirited Polynesia-set romp that encourages young girls to boldly venture beyond the boundaries laid out for them. If its spellbindingly gorgeous seafaring exploits don't quite amount to an instant classic, they are at least in the right waters. With a gripping story fashioned from indigenous culture and a satisfying blend of the familiar and the knowing, Moana represents yet another triumph in the studio's impressive recent run.
Its spunky heroine might look a bit like a Kardashian but Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) has the heart of a lioness. 'You are the next great chief of our people,' her father (Temuera Morrison) tells her proudly, as he insists she play it safe within the confines of their island village. Luckily Gramma Tala (Rachel House) has other ideas, looking to the ocean for inspiration and showing Moana a different way to live up to her potential and bring prosperity back to her people. With her grandmother's support Moana goes about fulfilling her destiny: she singlehandedly revives the voyaging tradition of her tribe and attempts to reunite a goddess with her heart, befriending a rogue demigod along the way (amusing work from Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, sending himself up as the egotistical buffoon Maui, a man whose own tattoos spring to life to despair at his stupidity).
Oceania is splashed across the big screen in a way that feels both tangibly real and enchantingly mythological. The unabashed positivity, cute creatures and politically correct messages are pure Disney but Jared Bush's zingy screenplay satirises the studio's princess obsession, eliminates the need for a love interest and pokes fun at the tendency to burst into song ('If you start singing, I'm gonna throw up,' grumbles Maui), in-between the catchy, albeit sub 'Under the Sea', musical numbers. Powered by a thrusting narrative and a surfeit of imagination, Moana is a vividly realised, genuinely rousing adventure.
General release from Fri 2 Dec.