I don’t completely remember why I didn’t see this film in the cinema but it’s a safe bet that I avoided it because I thought that going to see a Disney film in the cinema on my own would’ve been too weird.

On the Polynesian island of Motonui, young Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), daughter of the village chief, dreams of venturing out on the ocean far beyond her island but is forbidden to do so by her father, who fears the danger posed by the foreboding waters, preferring for Moana to stay at hone and to learn how to be a responsible leader to her people. But as the island’s food and plantlife start decaying, Moana takes to the ocean in search of the demi-god Maui (Dwyane Johnson), with the ultimate goal of returning the heart of Te Fiti, which will bring life back to the island again.

This film is bolstered by two wonderful characters who are brought to life by two equally wonderful performances. The character of Diana of Themyscira Moana of Motonui (seriously, I definitely picked up some Wonder Woman vibes . . .) is a fine addition to the realm of Disney Princesses as she possesses so many admirable qualities such as compassion, determination, bravery and intelligence while also displaying a certain wit and sense of humour, dishing out a fair share of great one-liners and quite often getting rightfully, and hilariously, annoyed at the characters around her and the circumstances that she’s in. Like most Disney Princesses, she has an unquenchable thirst for adventure and during the film, she matures well and develops an increased sense of responsibility. Auli’i Cravalho is endearing and charming in the role; she completely nails the comedic elements of Moana while also delivering a performance full of strength and genuine emotion. Plus, her singing is also remarkable, with a sound far beyond her years.

Then there’s Dwayne Johnson who plays the demi-god Maui; like Cravalho, he delivers a boatload of zingers with admirable comic timing while also being serious, guiding and parental when called for. Maui is hilariously arrogant and self-obsessed to begin with but matures well throughout the film and Johnson’s natural charisma shines through constantly.

Moana and Maui play off each other brilliantly, Cravalho and Johnson have noticeable chemistry (even though they probably weren’t even in the same recording studio) and the fun, quarrelsome duo are a massive asset to the film, delivering heart, soul and banter in abundance.

Moana is a well written film and it balances humour and pathos to a fulfilling extent. The script is very often hilarious as the high-energy jokes constantly hit the mark and there are plenty of great one-liners throughout but at the same time, the emotionally charged scenes are genuine and tender, perfectly capable of coaxing the tears out of its audience. The inclusion of Polynesian culture is a nice fresh touch and gives us a Disney setting that we haven’t experienced before.

Moana also has some fine music and songs; the epic “How Far I’ll Go” is a perfect rival to Frozen‘s “Let it Go”, “You’re Welcome” is a fun number that allows The Rock to have fun with some singing and on the whole, the music of Moana is rousing, upbeat, exciting and lovingly put together – a bona fide pleasure to listen to.

As for the animation, it’s pretty darn incredible. Since a huge part of Moana is the ocean, the water effects are spectacular, often getting me to wonder whether it was in fact real water being filmed, that’s how scarily realistic it all is, and it’s worth noting that the ocean definitely seems like it has its own distinct character, much like Aladdin‘s magic carpet I guess – how does Disney do that?! Moana is so bright, vivid and colourful and is a visual treat to behold.

And yes, on Blu-Ray it looks particularly amazing.

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A fun, exciting, cleverly written Disney adventure with spectacular visuals, wonderful music and two memorable, endearing and lovable central characters.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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