Over the Moon – Movie Review
Rating: B- (Okay)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Netflix
Throughout his career at Disney, Glen Keane has helped bring several iconic characters to life through his incredible animation. So there’s something exciting about seeing him begin a freelance career and become a director. His Oscar-winning short Dear Basketball brought his signature animation style to sports. With Over the Moon, he makes his feature directing debut. His eye for strong visuals and animation comes through in every frame and the film presents some needed themes about moving on. However, the movie also has trouble with giving the needed screentime to its various characters and the pacing is a bit off. Its goals are noble, but Over the Moon can’t quite rise above standard children’s fare.
The film’s biggest strengths come in two key areas: the animation, as mentioned before, and the music. The use of neon colours for the moon city visited by lead protagonist Fei Fei leads to some striking visuals. There is a lot of imagination with the various creatures encountered on her journey. Gobi, a glowing dog, especially does the job of being cute, along with a unique ability of having his back change depending on his mood. Fei Fei also has an adorable rabbit that tags along. The songs, written by Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield and Helen Park, are all very good and these provide some of the stand-out sequences.
“Rocket to the Moon” is the best song, an aspiring Broadway-like tune performed when Fei Fei starts planning her trip to outer space. Chang’e the moon goddess gets her own showstoppers, too, courtesy of “Ultraluminary” and “Hey Boy.” Between the musical numbers, the story attempts to give emotion to the characters. However, some scenes work better than others. The opening twenty minutes are a bit rough as it throws us right into the lead’s life and before you have a chance to take in the setting and get to know Fei-Fei, her mother is gone. It then immediately introduces us to her potential step-mother and brother. One wishes the film had taken a bit more time to explore the protagonists. Although it is refreshing that Fei Fei keeps her optimistic spirit even when coping with her sadness. It would have been far too easy to turn her into a cynic who hates the world.
As Over the Moon attempts to follow multiple characters, some get lost in the shuffle. Fei Fei is a likeable lead and Chang’e is given plenty of complexity. Fei Fei’s future step-brother Chin sets off on his own side plot, but he’s not given much to do outside of a fun table tennis game. Even the bunny gets his own subplot, time that could have been better spent on other aspects of the story. The funny moments provide a few chuckles (mainly via Gobi), but don’t hit the big laughs. The emotions are there, but don’t leave the impact one expects. The themes on loss are nicely implemented, though. There’s surprisingly not much to the story and even feels like it’s wrapping up at around the hour mark, but there is still about thirty minutes left to tell.
Over the Moon has its charms and the passion of the artists is all throughout the finished film. Glen Keane, an important figure in the ‘90s Disney Renaissance, is able to translate his style to computer animation and create a beautiful looking film. There’s a nice and important message that will probably resonant with a number of children and it’s good to see the film celebrate both Chinese culture and the sciences. The story just needed some extra fine-tuning and Over the Moon also struggles with wanting to balance the emotional aspects with the more childish elements. The final result is acceptable enough viewing, though, and Keane’s directing career holds a lot of promise.