Disney's Moana feels like a movie about how easy it can be to give up, and how important it is not to. It's funny, joyful, and sweet, and yet down below, running beneath everything, is a sad counter-narrative about how the world always throws obstacles in your way, and how you could just retreat. But for all that, this also plays like the lightest Disney animated film in quite some time.
That paradox is rooted in Moana's central relationship, between adventurous Polynesian princess of the title (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) and the hilariously preening, goofball demi-god Maui (voiced by Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson). The two find each other on the high seas after the girl flees her island village on a special quest. She wants to return a jewel-like "heart" that was stolen from the goddess Te Fiti by the demi-god Maui many years ago. The theft, we are told, plunged the world into darkness -- it's why the oceans are now so often treacherous.
Moana's people are terrified of venturing beyond a nearby reef; they're content to live in fear, grateful for what little they have. Luckily, Moana has special powers: The seas bend to her will. That gives her the courage to locate the demi-god Maui, a musclebound narcissist who has lost all his special powers. He has a literal backstory: Animated tattoos magically appear on his back after important events, telling the tale of his life. He's a marvelous creation, and the Rock voices him with an expert mix of bluster and pathos as the episodic quest tale becomes a buddy movie, with the bickering demi-god and princess coming to understand one another.