Netflix's 'Over the Moon' is a sweet tale about loss and moving forward
- Netflix’s next animated movie, “Over the Moon,” premieres on the streaming service Friday.
- It’s directed by former Disney veteran Glen Keane, who helped bring many 90s classics to life, including “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
- The musical doesn’t land every number, but you’ll have original song “Rocket to the Moon” stuck in your head long after it’s over. That song could easily snag an Oscar nod.
- Though the film delivers a sweet message about moving forward after losing a loved one, overall, the story feels a little predictable and thinks it packs a bit more of an emotional punch than it actually does.
- Warning: There are mild spoilers ahead.
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Netflix’s next big animated movie, “Over the Moon,” tackles grief, acceptance, and moving forward.
The film follows Fei Fei, (Cathy Ang) a 12-year-old girl who struggles with the idea of her father remarrying after the loss of her mother.
Caught off guard by the idea of a new mum and brother, she builds a rocket to travel to the moon to prove the existence of a goddess her mother told her about while she was young. Fei Fei hopes she can convince her father (John Cho) that her mother will always be his one true love.
The extremely personal story, led by a former Disney legend, could give Pixar’s big release this holiday season, “Soul,” a tough time when awards season rolls around. At the very least, “Over the Moon” should gain some Oscar attention for its emotional original song, “Rocket to the Moon.”What you should know: It comes from a legendary Disney animator, has an all Asian cast, and is the final film from screenwriter Audrey Wells
In an effort to compete with other animation studios, Netflix has been ramping up its pool of talent over the past few years. How do you follow up 2019’s Oscar-nominated “Klaus“ from “Despicable Me” cocreator Sergio Pablos?
You hire 38-year Disney veteran Glen Keane to direct a feature length movie for you. Keane brought some of Disney’s most iconic characters to life, including Ariel (“The Little Mermaid”), the Beast (“Beauty and the Beast”), Pocahontas, Tarzan, and Rapunzel (“Tangled”). Keane codirects “Over the Moon” with former Disney animator John Kahrs, (“Tangled,” “Frozen”) who won an Oscar for his short “Paperman.”
Screenwriter Audrey Wells (“The Hate U Give”) wrote the film as a love letter to her daughter and husband. Wells, to whom the film is dedicated, died at the age of 58 after a battle with cancer during production.
The cast includes Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”), Ken Jeong, Phillipa Soo (“Hamilton”), John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Kimiko Glenn, and Margaret Cho.What’s good: Newcomer Cathy Ang will pull at your heartstrings, Keane’s mix of 2D animation in a 3D film,and a song that has Oscar potential
Newcomer Cathy Ang gives an emotional and convincing performance as Fei Fei, a young girl, who’s sceptical of allowing others into her heart again after the difficult loss of her mother.
Fei Fei may not be one of the Disney princesses Keane has animated in the past, but she’s an inspiring, bright, courageous, and spunky girl with a love of science. And when you learn the reason behind her short, jagged haircut, it may make you tear up a little.
When she sings the film’s main song, “Rocket to the Moon,” don’t be surprised if you’re reaching for tissues. The emotional weight of the song as Fei Fei dreams of flying away from her current situation to escape into a dream world in the sky is heartbreaking.
If you’re a “Hamilton” fan, you’ll want to tune in for Philippa Soo’s singing performance as the moon goddess, Chang’e. The larger-than-life diva has a stand-out introduction scene where she performs during her concert to adoring moon fans. Though everything seems shimmering and spectacular on the surface, her colourful fans wind up having a deeply personal connection to the lonely goddess.
The addition of Fei Fei’s inquisitive and adorable pet rabbit, Bungee â€” a gift from her late mother â€” should also become an instant favourite. It’s the sort of character you could see turned into a stuffed animal. (So I wasn’t surprised when a quick Google search told me Netflix and Mattel partnered to turn Bungee and other characters into dolls and plush.)
Later, once Fei Fei makes her way to the moon â€” a fluorescent, fantastical, floating kingdomâ€” she’s taken on an adventure similar to when Dorothy visits Oz or Alice falls into Wonderland. You may wonder if she really even travelled to the moon or if it was all one grand dream. Ultimately, Fei Fei’s quest helps her come to terms with the idea of allowing someone new into her life.
It’s easy to see the influence of everything Keane learned about the pacing of Disney storytelling in the way “Over the Moon” is laid out.
One moment in the film, when Fei Fei’s mother delivers mooncakes to anxious customers, it’s tough not to recall a certain similar moment in “Beauty and the Beast” where a woman requires six eggs from a baker.
Keane didn’t just direct. He told Insider if he was going to make a movie, he wanted it to be one where he was also animating the story of a lead character, who’s making the impossible possible. That’s what Fei Fei does on her journey to the moon.
Though the film is mostly done using computer animation, Keane also shows off his 2D animation roots as he brings the legend of Chang’e to life dancing on a scarf.What’s not: While sweet, the film lingers in the realm of predictability to never feel especially extraordinary. Too many songs weigh it down.
There’s no question “Over the Moon” is beautifully animated and thoughtful, especially with such sensitive material.
It also stays authentic to Chinese culture. Subtle additions were added into the animation to ensure Fei Fei didn’t feel Americanized. It’s likely due to the fact that the production not only travelled to China, but it’s also produced by Chinese production company Pearl Studios.
Keane told Insider at least one scene was reanimated a few times to make sure Fei Fei’s response to her future stepmother early in the film reflected a genuine depiction of a 12-year-old.
While the first half hour of the film is immensely engaging (and will likely make you want to learn how to make a mooncake), it loses a little of its steam halfway through when Fei Fei finds herself on the moon.
The musical is stuffed with a few too many songs, some that feel more forced than others as the film carries on. It’s great to see a return to the animated musicals many grew up with in the ’90s, but not every bit of dialogue needs to be sang if the same meaning can come across through spoken word.
If you’ve lost someone close to you, or have grown up with a single parent, “Over the Moon” perfectly captures the hesitation one may experience in allowing new love into your life. While sweet, the film feels a little paint-by-numbers. It’s predictable. By its end, the film doesn’t pack as much of an emotional punch as it thinks it does during its climax.
Though it serves as a good watch with a valuable lesson at its core, “Over the Moon” likely won’t be one you’ll revisit over and over again.Grade: B
“Over the Moon” is available to stream on Netflix. Watch a trailer for the movie below:
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