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We all have our little rituals for going to the cinema, a certain combination of snacks perhaps, mocking the ads, commenting on the trailers, etc. The usual.

One of mine is a bottle of water that I’ll usually finish well before the film ends. In the case of Moana it was still half full when the credits rolled. That almost never happens, and it speaks to how well Moana held my attention.

Moana is essentially the modern Disney musical in CGI form rather than cel animation. It is the direct inheritor of Beauty and the Beast[1] and the string of films that followed it, and a worthy inheritor indeed.

In terms of story beats Moana is fairly straightforward, drawing on a fairly archetypical hero’s journey for both Moana and Maui, along with a Promethean back story for Maui.

Note that whilst I connected Maui to a Promethean archetype that is my own cultural matrix kicking in[2]. Maui is a much more complicated figure who appears in at least[3] Maori, Hawaiian, Tongan, Tahitian, Mangarevan, and Samoan mythologies. Whilst most of Maui’s introductory song “You’re Welcome” references these mythologies, I assume that the usual Disney/Hollywood artistic licenses have been taken, and that may have included adjusting it to better fit the Promethean archetype.

Moana is mostly very tightly scripted and well-paced. The first act before Moana leaves her village in search of Maui is the partial exception, and could possibly be edited down a bit.

With that one caveat, the film rockets along, and completely held my attention after the first act.

Moana looks and sounds great. The cast, led my Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) and Dwayne Johnson (Maui) , deliver solid performances in both dialogue and song. The music by Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Opetaia Foa’i is consistently excellent and carries the story well.

Overall directors Ron Clements and John Musker have done a superb job with Moana, and it is thoroughly recommended.

[1] There was a trailer for the live action Beauty and the Beast that looked like it might be worth seeing.

[2] And not the first time: see also my review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

[3] As in: those are the ones that have Wikipedia articles. I doubt that’s a complete list.