24 October 2020 18:33
Though Over the Moon is a collaboration between Netflix, Pearl Studios, and Sony Picture Imageworks, if you feel some Disney and Pixar magic from the film that's thanks to co-directors Glen Keane and John Kahrs. Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), our young heroine, has always loved the story of Chang'e (Phillipa Soo) the moon goddess. It's a story that Fei Fei clings to after her mother (Ruthie Ann Miles) succumbs to an illness the film doesn't name. So, when her father (John Cho) bumbles his way through introducing Fei Fei to Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), his fiancée and her son, Chin (Robert G Chiu), Fei Fei decide to go on a mission to the moon to prove Chang'e's existence and remind her father of his everlasting love for her mother. Her mother is fond of telling stories about the celestial beings in space, and it's because of her that Fei Fei has a robust imagination.
It ties the family together and Fei Fei's attempts to shut Mrs. Zhong out of meal preparations for the moon festival illustrate how desperately she's trying to hold on to how things were before. Fei Fei's insistence on the validity of the way her mother told Chang'e's story is also a part of this desperation that manifests in a risky plan to fly to the moon. Meanwhile, Chin faces off with Chang'e in an epic ping-pong battle and Fei Fei's bunny, Bungee, gets powers and finds love thanks to Jade Rabbit. There is a lot going on in this film and yet it manages to make it work even with talking moon cakes and glowing orb creatures birthed from Chang'e's tears. Over the course of the film, Fei Fei learns this through talking about her grief and observing how sadness and an inability to move forward can be destructive and stop you from seeing all the love around you.
Thus, Fei Fei builds a clunky rocket ship to take her to the moon, and thanks to the help of some divine intervention, arrives there with her pet rabbit Bungee (Edie Ichioka) and rambunctious stepbrother-to-be, Chin (Robert G. It's clear that Fei Fei's often-irrational decisions stem from the confusion and grief of losing her mother, and although they don't get much screentime together, the gradual bonding between her and her new family is still sweet. In the film's eleventh hour, it introduces a fourth, now-talking, animal companion by the name of Gobi (Ken Jeong), an exiled doglike creature who lives on the moon. This lengthy segment in which Fei Fei and Gobi travel together makes the film drag even more and adds yet another needless character to a plot that already has too many balls in the air. At times, it appears that Over the Moon's animation sequences and songs were planned first, while its plot was written to awkwardly fit them in.
But before we can speculate too much, Fei Fei's father (John Cho) starts seeing someone new (Sandra Oh), which makes her very, very upset. The film's bright colors and brazenly happy music may not be enough for viewers to overcome the themes of loss that orbit Fei Fei's adventure. The second and third acts involve Fei Fei teaming up with her friends and lunar locals, a bunny, a rabbit, a moon blob (Ken Jeong), and a possible stepbrother (Robert G. There are some colorful and imaginative set pieces, and the voice performances from Ang and Soo are especially exuberant, but the tone of "Over the Moon" is odd as the gravity of Fei Fei's real-life issues invades the planet of Lunaria. Imbuing a story like this with issues of death and trauma can be good for kids, but it makes it so much harder to find the bright side of the moon.