For this feature-length animation, veteran Disney directors John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules) stick to bankable formula: a plucky, beautiful girl named Moana (and given voice by Auli'i Cravalho) longs to venture outside her Polynesian village despite her father's opposition ("I wish I could be the perfect daughter / But I'm drawn to the water," she sings, recalling many a Disney heroine before her). Eventually, at the encouragement of her sage grandmother, she sets sail with her rooster sidekick to find the braggadocious demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson). The narrative is a fairly predictable hero's journey—Maui even calls her "The Chosen One"—but the movie is refreshing for its lack of a love interest; instead Moana learns how to chart her own course. Dynamic CGI and robust songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton further enhance the experience.
By Leah Pickett