Moana (2016) - 3.5 out of 4
Before the reviews for this started coming out, I was planning on giving this a skip. The trailer made it seem like one of those generic Disney films. I am thankful I didn't. This is Disney's most refreshing "princess" movie in their entire history. Moana is a film that perfectly pays homage to all the classic Disney princess movies, while still acknowledging the many issues they overlooked in the past. I enjoyed it a lot and would heartily recommend it to everyone.
The first aspect I liked about Moana was her appearance. We're used to seeing Disney princesses have these perfect hourglass figures. And Moana threw that right out of the window by creating a character, who still looks good without being anemic. That's a refreshing change from the studio, and one I hope will continue going forward.
I get the feeling the character of Moana owes a lot to Pixar's often overlooked and under-appreciated Brave. Here also we have a girl who has the path chosen for her by one of her parents. She just wants to be free and go out and explore the world without any shackles. And while Pixar's effort didn't go all the way and make Merida truly independent, Moana does. By the end of the film, she's taking on sea monsters almost single-handedly on her own. It once again goes to show how far the industry has come recently.
There's really not a lot else to say in specific. Dwayne Johnson's casting as Maui is gold. He brings the overload of charisma he has to the role, which makes it enjoyable; although I do get the feeling that Maui's depiction being on the funnier side may not go well with Polynesians. The songs - scored by Lin Manuel-Miranda of Hamilton fame - are not evergreen classic Disney but good enough within the context of the film.
Go watch it! It's Disney's most noteworthy film in recent years.