I Love You To The Moon And Back
On the surface, Over The Moon looks like a formulaic, by-the-numbers animated musical. In truth, the story is incredibly simplistic and recycles themes we’ve seen a million times before. Where this one really shines though is with its execution, which easily makes this one of the best animated movies of the year.
The visuals are stunning, the entire story is oozing with Asian culture and the songs are catchy and enjoyable. Clocking in at a little under 90 minutes, this animation feels like Disney in its heyday. There’s some pretty emotional moments throughout and the characters are endearing and well written. However, there’s also a constant niggling feel of Deja vu as this one borrows many concepts and ideas from other Disney pictures.
At the heart of this tale lies our enthusiastic protagonist Fei Fei. After a tragic death turns her world upside down, she struggles to come to terms with the new reality of her life. Setting her sights on the mythical moon goddess, Fei Fei starts to build a rocket ship to meet her; a fable she’s kept close to her heart since Fei Fei’s Mother sang to her 4 years prior. And thus our magical tale begins.
From here the story sees Fei Fei and her step-sibling Chin together on a wild adventure as they go in search of the moon goddess within the neon-lit, Disney-esque castle in the sky. It’s a familiar story in truth and one that plays out with all the usual plot beats you’d expect along the way.
There’s a litany of colourful characters, including a talking alien dog very reminisce of Olaf from Frozen. There’s also the interwoven Chinese legend of Chang’e which works really well to add a slightly different flavour to this familiar tasting dish.
Still, this really does feel very much like a Disney animation without the Disney tagline to go with it. This is perhaps unsurprising given the Director, Glen Keane, has been directly involved with some of Disney’s biggest animations across the years.
This isn’t a disservice to Over The Moon though, such an observation over how effective this tried and tested formula. After all, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!
The usual array of musical ensembles are all here too, although in truth only a few are likely to stand out. Unlike Moana, Frozen or the older Disney classics, there’s nothing here that immediately grabs you and stand out as being something you (or your kids) replay over and over again.
What is immediately evident though is just how much care has been put into the animation. This movie is absolutely gorgeous and there’s actually some pretty impressive uses of CGI on display here. Hair, faces and water are generally known to be some of the hardest to render (along with realistic-looking snow) but all three of these are used consistently throughout.
It helps that the story world lends itself to such visual splendor, with the various creatures met along the way just as animated and expressive as their human counterparts. The lighting and shadow work is equally as impressive too, made all the more impressive by some solid lip-syncing throughout.
If there’s one blemish here though it comes from Fei Fei’s family. Ultimately this is a tale that uses them in both the first and final act without the emotional resonance that could have been shown with more time.
Even an extra 20 minutes at the beginning, seeing how all these family members deal with their grief, could have been enough to get involved in that final pay-off at the end.
Instead, it’s up to young Fei Fei to carry the story. Although she does so effortlessly, I can’t help but feel Fei Fei’s father and a possible Father/Daughter connection resonating across the plot could have made this more emotionally connecting.
Still, there’s definitely some moments here that are likely to have tears in your eyes. That storytelling magic is still very much a key ingredient here, helping to make this such a good movie.
Overall, Over The Moon is a very familiar but very well written movie. It’s a picture tackling ideas of grief and family relations but doing so within a fantastical recreation of the Chang’e legend.
While some may bemoan the similarities between this and older Disney pictures, Over The Moon is a beautiful film nonetheless and another hit for Netflix’s animated division.