Movie Review: MOANA

Indoor Places to Go

MOANA, the newest Disney animated movie, is about Moana’s journey doing what she is called to do: restore the heart of the island and honor her people’s tradition of being voyagers. Moana, the Polynesian lead character, travels with Hei Hei, her clueless but invincible chicken. She finds Maui, a demigod, as part of her mission and they continue the journey together. Below you will find answers to questions that we all want to know before taking our kids to a movie: Were there scary parts? Bad language? What are the take-away messages in the movie? Is it worth seeing?


The water in the movie was beautiful, especially towards the beginning of the film when it pulled back from the shore and you could see through the water so clearly. Very creative and captivating. The ocean was not just part of the scenery; it was a character in the movie.


Thought provoking topics presented in MOANA

There were some great themes and inspiring concepts in Moana, which we ended up talking about the whole ride home! Please note that there are some details about the movie in this section that you might not want to know before you see it. If you’d rather skip it, quickly scroll down to the image of Moana and her grandmother.

Culture and honoring where you came from
All of the people that live on the island are full of joy and they work in harmony together. Stories in their culture are passed down through lessons and stories and they honor their traditions. Moana always feels the tug to travel outside the island… her father is very resistant because of past experiences, but her grandmother as well as the water encourages her. But this is not a story of leaving your family and never looking back. The people were originally voyagers and Moana ultimately restores that longing in the people when she returns. It was a beautiful story of giving back to her community and accomplishing something meaningful for her people.

Women with authority
Her father mentions that him, his father, his grandfather, past generations added a stone to the pile as the chief, which means that Moana is the first woman chief. Very cool. Her grandmother, although she is the self-proclaimed crazy lady, is crucial to the story and gives Moana confidence and support. It is also noted that just because Moana is the main female character and she has a animal sidekick of sorts, that does not mean that she’s a princess. Hats off to Disney.

Doing what you are called to do
Moana felt the call to travel beyond the reef and built up the courage (with the help of her grandmother) to do what she was meant to do. It wasn’t easy to leave and the journey was difficult, but she persevered to face the challenges ahead of her. Rather than just saying, “follow your heart” I think this movie had a stronger message to listen to your calling and find the courage and strength to do what you are meant to do.

Dealing with pain
Sometimes the hurt that people experience turn them into something unrecognizable. This movie shows visually and symbolically how love is so important and can heal our pain to restore us to what we are meant to be. The lava monster is a perfect example of that. I don’t want to spoil it and give you any more details about that one!

Another important aspect I would like to point out is that neither of Moana’s parents dies in the movie! I was so happy that they didn’t follow the normal pattern. The grandmother does die, but in a graceful and symbolic way. You see her laying down and not feeling well, but don’t see her passing.

MOANA - (Pictured) Grandma Tala and Moana. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
MOANA – (Pictured) Grandma Tala and Moana. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


Scary parts

There were two scary parts in the movie, the first being the sea monsters. During part of their journey, Moana and Maui encounter several monsters in the ocean. The first couple are small and weird looking, but you don’t get a long look at them. However, Tamatoa is a large, crusty, shiny crab that has a scene with song where he is trying to catch Moana and Maui. It gets dark to reveal the crab’s bioluminescence. I could see that part being a little disturbing to children under the age of six.

The lava monster is also scary looking. She is made entirely of lava, with holes for two eyes and a mouth. We found this part less scary than the sea monsters because that scene is redeemed with the lava monster being defeated and beauty in it’s place, but the imagery is startling.

There is only one other scene of note in this section: the coconut pirates. A pirate ship approaches the two main characters with cannons and guns, but then the camera zooms to reveal that the pirates are actually coconuts with drawn-on faces. It’s actually pretty cute and we giggled when we saw them, but I wanted to mention it for those that are sensitive to weapons.



The worst words that were said were “butt” and “dumb” and at one point Moana says, “son of a” but then gets cut off. We did not feel that the language used was offensive, nor did we worry that our kids were going to obnoxiously repeat anything inappropriate or vulgar from the movie because there simply wasn’t any content like that. Kudos to the film makers for keeping it clean while still being entertaining.

MOANA - (Pictured) Pua and Hei Hei ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
MOANA – (Pictured) Pua and Hei Hei ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


Fun Facts

  • Sven, the reindeer from Frozen, makes a brief appearance in the movie when Maui was shape shifting, which was a cute surprise.
  • Mini Maui, the animated tattoo, is comparable to Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio” and serves as Maui’s conscience.
  • Anthropologists, educators, linguists, master tattooists, choreographers, haka practitioners, master navigators and cultural advisors collaborated with Disney’s creative team, which we thought was very impressive and admirable.


I have to say that none of the music stood out to see or stuck in my head, which is not the norm for these films. So that part didn’t strike me as being fantastic, but you’ll have to see if you agree.

We enjoyed the movie, found it to be full of entertainment and meaningful concepts.

MOANA opens on Wednesday, November 23. The film has a run time of 96 minutes and is rated PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.

Here is the official synopsis:
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows exactly why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho) meets the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.


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