Netflix made a successful foray into the world of animated features with the release of two terrific films — Klaus and The Willoughbys (both of which are highly recommended if you haven’t seen them yet) — within the span of months. The streaming service continues this trend with its latest animated movie, Over the Moon, a charming fantasy musical that is very likely to entertain its viewers.

The story’s heroine is the feisty Fei Fei (voiced by Cathy Ang) who grows up listening to her mother’s (Ruthie Ann Miles) renditions of legends about a moon goddess named Chang’e (Phillipa Soo), a lonely immortal heartbroken over her lost mortal love.

Fei Fei and her family live happily in their village where they make and sell mooncakes. But her mother’s illness and death soon bring sorrow to the youngster’s life. Four years later, when she finds out that her father (John Cho) plans to remarry, an upset Fei Fei decides to build a rocket to the moon so that she can prove that Chang’e — and therefore true love — is real in the hopes that this will stop her father from starting a new family.

Her subsequent journey does not go quite as she had planned, but she eventually ends up learning the very lessons that she needed.

The build-up is sweet and touching, which makes it easy to care for the protagonist. The film does jump from its initial realistic setting to a fantasy-drenched follow-up, and while the transition is a little jarring, the bright and colourful visuals are still fun to watch.

Despite its uneven tone, the warmth of the tale is sure to win you over. For the most part the drama is moving, even when the developments are either too convenient or just unclear. It is also good to see Asian representation in a mainstream release. Plus there are several (some would say too many!) lively sidekicks (including a possible step-brother (Robert G Chiu), a pangolin (Ken Jeong), and a cute pet bunny), and the tunes are enjoyable too.

Many of the film’s thematic elements, however, are familiar. Several movies by Disney and Pixar have explored the ideas of loss, overcoming grief, and embracing change. And while Over the Moon may not be as memorable or impactful as instant classics like Up and Coco (and even the recent Onward), it is still a heartfelt, touching, engaging episode that tries to keep you entertained from start to finish.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 14th, 2020

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