Movie Review: Disney's Moana on Netflix

Moana header image

Movie Review: Disney's Moana on Netflix

by Rob Jefchak

Moana is currently only available on Netflix Canada and American Netflix.  This has been a recent pattern for Disney releases, with Canada often getting titles even before the USA.  Check out the up-to-the-minute availability on our Moana on Netflix page, or unlock it no matter where you live using the steps on our Get American Netflix page.

Disney has been going through a powerful surge of excellence with its latest computer animated movies. “Zootopia,” “Big Hero 6,” “Frozen”, “Wreck-it Ralph”, all of these were commercially and critically praised films and not one of them had anything to do with Pixar. Pixar used to be Disney’s CGI ace in the hole that always guaranteed some of the best storytelling and animating in cinematic animation history. But with the right writers, directors, song writers and actors, Disney has proven that it can create Pixar quality CGI stories and films without Pixar being involved at all, and they have proven that again with their latest and greatest film; “Moana.”

Taking far more authentic and faithful cues from its cultural roots than any other Disney princess, our titular character (Auli'i Cravalho) is the daughter of the village chief and next in line to serve her people and protect the welfare of the island they call home. When an unknown danger threatens their way of life, Moana embraces her love of the sea, despite her father’s reluctance, to venture out to the sea and locate the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and have him restore the mystical heart of Ta Fiti he stole many years ago. Unfortunately, Moana doesn’t know what she’s doing and Maui is proving difficult to work with. Both must learn to work together and surpass impossible odds in order to restore balance to their way of life.

Moana” is truly one of the most beautiful and inspiring stories the house of mouse has ever told and it’s helped by two great contributing factors: the authenticity to the Hawaiian culture and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Past Disney films such as “Pocahontas” and “Mulan” have taken well known stories and cultures, and turned them into something they are not; ignoring the heritage and nature of these cultural stories. “Moana” fully embraces its Polynesian folklore and music and puts it on full display in this film. Everything from the clothing, the tribal markings, to even lyrics in the music is accurate and beautifully represented to the culture of the story the film is trying to tell, and while it’s story may be a simple one, it has a great deal of heart beyond its waves.

​​​​​​Moana is a lively, likeable and heartwarming character who knows how to attract people’s attention the moment she’s on screen. Her chemistry with the mischievous and smart mouthed Maui (played with devilish perfection by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is highly engaging. They make such an unlikely pair and play off each other perfectly, brandishing top notch physical and verbal comedy that never gets old, never feels too referential and never stops being funny. These characters come off as iconic and interesting without even trying and even the hardest of hearts will be softened by the passion and care that is masterfully woven into each relationship, character and song. Lin-Manuel Miranda creates a timeless soundtrack. It’s the most iconic soundtrack to date for Disney and makes Polynesian dialect sound like operatic music; enthralling you effortlessly and giving The Rock one of the catchiest songs ever with “You’re Welcome.”

The water is a large component to the film’s story and it looks utterly gorgeous, always brimming with new flares, new shapes, new ripples that makes it feel like it’s a living, thinking, breathing character right alongside Moana and Maui. It’s hard to find a single fault as the writers and director covered their tracks too well with so much enjoyable music and characters, you’d have to actually force yourself to dislike this movie in order to find a fault. The only fault that could have an argument made is that there is not enough screen time for the eccentric crab villain, Tamatoa played by Jermaine Clement. He is a true delight and steals every moment and minute he’s on screen; outshining both our heroes in personality and comedy (which is no easy feat for either one of them).

Overall, “Moana” is a one of kind beautiful experience that has to be seen at least once in your lifetime. Disney has created a new kind of masterpiece magic with these wonderful characters and a soundtrack too catchy and creative to miss out hearing. The cast, the songs, the story, the visuals, it’s all there, it’s all top shelf, top notch and absolutely worth every penny and every minute you will hopefully (and wisely) spend while watching it.