Better than Frozen? Moana gets rave reviews - mostly

Moana has received rave reviews as it debuts overseas - although one critic wasn't quite as enamored as the rest.

The story about the Pacific Princess, which features the voices of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Jemaine Clement and Temuera Morrison, isn't due to be released in New Zealand until December 26.

Read more: Why New Zealand will be among the last to see Moana

But it has already started screening overseas, and first reviews have praised it as a "pitch-perfect addition to the animated Disney canon".

"Moana feel like a worthy successor to Disney's most beloved animated classics, but it pushes the genre into 2016, introducing a smart, diverse, and convincing heroine who struggles against lava monsters and self-doubt," wrote Entertainment Weekly in an A- review.

"Moana has a lot of the hallmarks of your classic Disney adventure - the goofy animal sidekicks, the feel-good messages - but its heroine is something new, a smart and fiery deviation from your standard European lovestruck princesses."

Variety agreed, calling it "a return to the heights of the Disney Renaissance" while praising the lack of a love interest for the film's lead.

"More than Tangled, more than Frozen, Moana keeps with the tradition that made Disney the leader in animated fairy and folk tales, and yet, showing a thoroughly modern touch, it's the first to do so without so much as suggesting a love interest."

Forbes called it "another powerhouse piece of girl-powered mythmaking".

"I'm a sucker for this sort of thing, provided it's good. Moana is very good, and thus I enjoyed the hell out of it," said reviewer Steve Rose.

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter simply called it "a delight".

"Appealing equally to the eyes, ears, heart and funny bone, Moana represents contemporary Disney at its finest - a vibrantly rendered adventure that combines state-of-the-art CG animation with traditional storytelling and colourful characters, all enlivened by a terrific voice cast."

Only one reviewer seemed less than impressed, with The Guardian giving Moana three stars out of five and saying it "settles into empowerment cliches".

"Disney has set a high standard lately. Frozen defied its fairytale template by swerving into matters of sisterhood, Big Hero 6 pulled off a clever trans-Pacific cultural fusion, and this year's excellent Zootopia was both a snappy, original comedy and a valuable primer in identity politics," reviewer Steve Rose said.

"Moana never quite reaches these heights. Its cultural setting is fresh; its storytelling, less so. It navigates the reefs but it doesn't discover a whole new world."

Moana debuts in New Zealand theatres on Boxing Day.

- NZ Herald

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