A review, there will be spoilers.
First let’s get the negative out of the way. With the ocean as her ally, it felt like less of the adventure was up to Moana, though she still did plenty. I would have liked to see her depend more on her wits to get Maui to cooperate and less on the ocean making it physically impossible for him to lose her. Basically, less sentient water and more of Moana’s free spirit. I would have preferred if Moana discovered that the ocean reacted to her, rather than it having a will of its own, then it would have felt like more fell on her shoulders as the protagonist. Plus it would have been cool to see her go all on a water bending battle with Teka, before realizing that she was Tafiti. The final battle with Moana just walking to Teka felt anticlimactic, like there should be more of a struggle.
As cool as Maui’s shape shifting is, he would have grown more as a character if he didn’t get it back. The deities that adopted him did indeed make him unique by giving him the hook. Moana’s line should have been about how the hook doesn’t make him Maui. Then he could have gone off to prove he can be a hero without relying on the hook. This would have also contributed to the ending. Though I like how Moana wants to leave her predictable island life, while at the same time valuing its peace, it feels like a step back to focus on what their ancestors did, rather than what they could accomplish in the future. This is where the lack of hook comes in. Instead of having Maui form new islands from them to discover, it would come to their attention that he can’t, to which Moana could reply “let’s see what’s beyond the islands!” Then it would open the door to her being the first to lead her people to befriend other civilizations, which seems grander than sticking to the archipelago. Maui could have joined the tribe as their equal and finally gotten the human acceptance he wanted first hand.
My only other critique is that the cute pet pig didn’t get enough screen time in comparison to the rooster. They should have brought them both. The pig could have his own silly humor in being more chicken than a chicken. In my opinion, the pig was the more likable out of the two pets anyway. The middle of the movie felt a bit slow, but I guess I could blame that on being pickier than I was as a kid, so I don’t fault it for that.
With all of that out of the way, I’ll mention the positives. I finished the movie to the end without getting bored, which is not something all movies can accomplish, to put it simply: it’s all around entertaining. The animation is beautiful. I like the music, especially “How Far I’ll Go” it’s super catchy. The characters are likable and fun, especially Moana, Maui and the grandma. I realize that the positive section looks shorter than the negative, but that’s only because there I’m offering my take on how the movie could have improved, where as here I have no changes to suggest, so not as much to explain. Overall, I did like the movie and will be listening to its music.