This engaging adventure triumphs because of its empowering storyline, which pays tribute to Polynesian culture, and because of its feel-good music, courtesy of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Teen Hawaiian singer Cravalho and Johnson (aka "The Rock") share a refreshingly student-and-mentor-like chemistry as the driven Moana and mythic Maui. Unlike any other "Disney princess" movie, Moana is completely romance free, never once bringing up its main character's marriage prospects. Moana's status as the island's next chief is unquestioned, and she's so busy trying to diplomatically solve her people's problems that the lack of a love interest is welcome. As Maui points out, she's a princess because she wears a dress and has an animal sidekick (in her case, a kooky rooster called Heihei), but Moana strives to save her island, not find a prince.
No other actor could have been a better fit for Maui than Johnson (himself of Polynesian heritage): He's as charming in animated form as he is in live-action adventures. Maui starts off as a self-absorbed demigod; he sings one of the catchiest songs in the movie, "You're Welcome," about all of the ways humankind should thank him for his accomplishments. But as he grows to know Moana and teaches her how to navigate the ocean, his truer, kinder self emerges. The original music, which is a collaboration between Miranda, Disney composing alum Mark Mancina, and Samoan musician Opetaia Foa'i, is catchy and appropriately inspired by Oceanic music. Besides "You're Welcome," the funniest song is "Shiny," sung by Jemaine Clement, who plays a killer crab with an insatiable appetite for treasure. With its inspiring messages, charming characters, and memorable music, Moana is an excellent choice for moviegoers of all ages.