Over the Moon Review – When You Wish Upon a Moon

Over the Moon

Over the Moon isn’t the first time that an animated film has adapted a Chinese fable for the masses. Last year, we saw the release of Amp Wong and Ji Zhao’s The White Snake, based on the Chinese legend of the same name. While The White Snake was catered more to the older demographic and stuck closely to the fable itself, Over the Moon is a multifaceted film set for the whole family. The film follows Fei Fei, a girl who lost her mother at a young age. When her father is on the verge of finding love again, Fei Fei believes that she must search for the mythical moon goddess, Chang’e, to remind her father of his love for his late wife.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Over the Moonimitates Disney in the most heartfelt way possible. Over the Moon feels so much like a Disney film because it follows their tropes to the letter. It’s an animated musical featuring a helpful animal sidekick and a princess with a castle searching for her one true love. Although the film closely imitates Walt Disney’s old princess formula (with help from a former Disney animator Glen Keane who learned from Disney’s Nine Old Men), the film tweaks it in a way that will appeal to modern audiences. 

Over the Moon takes a fable or fairy tale and adapts it in a way that will appeal to everyone. This method lets Western audiences know of Chang’e’s legend while entertaining them at the same time. It’s clear from Abominable and Over the Moon that Pearl Studio loves to tell stories of families coming together from all walks of life. The theme of fractured families finding pieces to fill in the void is a subject that is especially relatable during these pandemic times.

Over the Moon - Robert Chiu, Cathy Ang, and Phillipa Soo

Yet unlike Yi in Abominable, Fei Fei comes across as selfish and mean. Fei Fei’s journey to find Chang’e is fueled by her selfish need to keep her father to herself. Thankfully, Cathy Ang’s playful vocal performance lets audiences sympathize with her despite her selfishness. Not to mention, she can pull off all the emotions this character goes through and works well with Ken Jeong as Gobi and Robert Chiu as Chin. They all have great vocal chemistry together, and nothing feels forced. Unfortunately, the other characters in the film are thinly sketched with their subplots feeling a bit weak.

Regardless, Over the Moon is a dazzling visual feast. The film’s vibrant and dynamic animation gives the colorful world of Over the Moon a lot of life. Even more impressive is how the animators capture the lunar world environments and backdrops of China. Yet unlike other 3D-animated films, director Glen Keane implements some of his 2D expertise into the film. After all, he did win an Oscar with Kobe Bryant* for his 2D animated short, Dear Basketball. This subtle mixture of traditional flat 2D animation with 3D takes some getting used to. Yet the vivid and merry world of the film will quickly have you accepting the fresh animation style put forth by Glen Keane and Pearl Studio.

Of course, we can’t talk about the film without talking about the music itself. This is an animated musical, after all. The catchy music by songwriters Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park adds another charming element to the film. “Rocket to the Moon” is a rousing ballad that’s up there with the likes of Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” and sets up the tone of the film. 

Overall, Over the Moon is the sleeper animated feature of the year that everyone should see. Grief and loss are always tough subjects to deal with, but the film handles it with grace and a joyful range of colors and light. You’ll come out entertained and feeling better about yourself.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Over the Moon hits Netflix on October 23rd.

*Rest in Peace Mamba

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