MOVIES

Charming ‘Over The Moon’ Will get Misplaced In Lunar Orbit


The acclaimed animator behind such powerful figures as Ariel, Aladdin, Tarzan and Rapunzel has a new heroine and she’s going further than any of his creations the moon.

Twelve-year-old Fei Fei builds a handmade rocket to blast into outer space in the new Netflix movie musical Over the Moon, the first animated film backed by a major Hollywood studio to feature an entirely Asian cast.

The film stars newcomer Cathy Ang as our plucky heroine, backed by such voice actors as Hamilton star Phillipa Soo, comedians Ken Jeong and Margaret Cho, Star Trek star John Cho, Broadway veterans Ruthie Ann Miles and Kimiko Glenn, and Killing Eve star Sandra Oh.

It opens and closes in modern day China, but the bulk of the film is set in Lunaria, an imaginary kingdom on the dark side of the moon that’s filled with glowing, bubblegum-colored blobs and where the laws of physics are tossed out.

The transition from hyperreal cooked crabs that glisten in a bowl in the first 30 minutes of the film to amorphous, gooey Candyland critters 30 minutes later is jarring. The sequences on the moon grow tiresome, despite huge toads that fly and squeaky-voiced critters.

It film starts with Fei Fei on her quest to meet the mythical Moon Goddess, Change. The immortal goddess lives on the moon waiting to reunite with her mortal love, the archer Houyi. Fei Feis mother tells her the legend before she gets sick and dies.

The film jumps four years into the future and Fei Fei’s dad is considering re-marrying, a horrific prospect for his daughter. Fei Fei reasons that if she can prove that Change and eternal love really do exist, her dad will ditch his new girlfriend. I just want things back the way they were, she says. So she starts building a rocket.

Grief was part of the films DNA: Screenwriter Audrey Wells died of cancer in 2018 while the film was being made and the final product is dedicated to her memory, with some lines like you have to move on all the more poignant.

Unfortunately, the film has echoes of previous animated fare like the missing mother and engineering-bent of the young heroine from Wonder Park and the assortment of adorable sidekicks from Frozen 2. It also recalls the trippy Technicolor shift from The Wizard of Oz.

The original songs include eight varied and delightful ones by the writing team of Christopher Curtis (Broadways Chaplin), Marjorie Dueld and Helen Park (off-Broadways KPOP).

EDM, hip-hop, folk and Broadway all take turns shining in such songs as On the Moon Above, Mooncakes, Rocket to the Moon, Ultraluminary, Hey Boy, Wonderful, Yours Forever and Love Someone New. The movie also uses traditional Chinese instruments, like the pipa and guzheng, while singing in Mandarin is heard.

Director Glen Keane, who worked on The Little Mermaid and Aladdin among many others, brings much of his Disney experience to Over the Moon, this time making his feature directorial debut. Hes now helped Netflix get into the animated musical game, thanks to this collaboration between Chinas Pearl Studio and Sony Pictures.

Fei Fei’s build up for her moonshot and the launch is perhaps the most thrilling element of the film and the animators have put a great deal of thought into expressions for both kids and adults. The food pops and even the wind is expressive. But the film looses coherence and urgency on the dark side of the moon.

Truth be told, Change voiced fantastically by Soo is a bit of an Oz-like dictator, a lunar diva whose emotions determine everything on Lunaria. She introduces herself with a boastful K-pop banger Ultraluminary Ya ready to watch me be legendary? like Katy Perry on steroids. She’s nothing like Mama said, points out Fei Fei.

There are also Angry Birds-like motorcycle-riding chickens biker chicks, get it? and a blobby lunar dog called Gobi which is a little too close to Josh Gads goofy and endearing Olaf character from Frozen.

Add a small frog, an adorable bunny, a possible step-brother and a magical hare and things get overloaded. It’s a shame that viewers after a while will long for the pull of gravity.

Over the Moon, a Netflix/Pearl Studio release, is rated PG for some thematic elements and mild action. Running time: 99 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG: Parental guidance suggested.

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Online: https://www.netflix.com/title/80214236

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits




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