OVER THE MOON (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: Fueled with determination and a passion for science, a bright young girl builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess.
Over The Moon marks Netflix third foray into original animations after Klaus and The Willougbhys. While it’s not necessarily a classic memorable title down the road, it’s still an impressive imaginative tale worthy of your time.
Fei Fei is a feisty smart girl who lives in a watertown with her parents. From young, she is obsessed with the story of Chang’e, the moon goddess who took an elixir of immortality and drift to the moon thus separating from her beloved husband, the legendary archer Hou Yi. It’s a mythology beloved by her mother as well. Unfortunately, her mother passes away shortly leaving her and a bunny named Bungee.
Four years later on the night of the mid-autumn festival, her dad introduces her to her new stepmother and stepbrother, Chin. Feeling upset that her dad has forgotten about her late mom, she decides to travel to the moon to look for Chang’e to prove her existence and true love. In other words, how can a makeshift rocket go wrong? Or should we say did Chang’e actually exist at all?
Directed by Disney’s long-time animator, Glen Keane (Tarzan, Tangled), Over The Moon is a visual feast from start to end. The details are amazing be it the tantalizing plates of Chinese food, mooncakes or Lunaria where Chang’e resides. Obviously, much research goes into creating a believable Chinese culture onscreen. The animation level is a cross between a Disney and Pixar feature. It’s genuinely stunning and eye-popping at the same time.
The only problem lies in the story by the late Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun, A Dog’s Purpose). It tries too hard to make it relevant for the Chinese audiences but also too cheesy at times to please the general crowd. Take for example, this version of Chang’e who has horridly morphed into a K-pop singer and vengeful lady. Aside from the extended prologue, much of the happenings took place on the imaginary Lunaria. It’s akin to the memory area in Inside Out but instead we have Lunettes, Biker Chicks and planetary looking bouncing balls all around. Personally, it’s better to just let Fei Fei stayed on earth to sort out her grief and family issues.
The animation is filled with catchy soaring tunes by Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield and Helen Park. Frozen 2 definitely has a new competitor. Ken Jeong voiced the annoying sidekick named Gobi since Eddie Murphy has somewhat becomes unavailable in recent times. John Cho voices the father role and other notable names such as Margaret Cho and Sandra Oh voices other minor characters. Stage actress Phillipa Soo deserved the biggest credit of all with the latter providing the clear commanding voice of Chang’e.
This co-production by Sony Pictures Imageworks and Shanghai Pearl Studio is a wonderful tale for the entire family. There is no doubt some bumps along the way. That’s totally forgivable by the way. As a CGI animation on the small screen, it’s a remarkable effort on the whole. We are not over the moon though this is not on the level of live-action Mulan kind of misfire. In fact on hindsight, Disney should choose this over Mulan.
Review by Linus Tee