Review: Colorful musical 'Over the Moon' finds strength in familiarity
Courtesy of Netflix
The future of Netflix animation is bright, or colorful with their latest excursion “Over the Moon,” which is an explosion of genuine enchantment that manages to find strength in the familiar. Despite elements of “Wizard of Oz” blended with “Up,” this CG-animated musical packs enough charm and catchy tunes that’ll cater to the core demographic but give adults something to latch onto.
The Chinese legend of Chang’e, the Goddess of the Moon, is the narrative foundation for director Glen Keane’s visual marvel. He squeezes Netflix for every penny they have as the streaming giant tries to carve their animation footprint, and the deeply layered graphics on display prove that. Anchored by an enigmatic voice cast featuring Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, and Ken Jeong, “Over the Moon” should delight families across the globe as its release is perfectly timed with the annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.
The film is also dedicated to late screenwriter Audrey Wells who was receiving cancer treatment during the making of the film, which adds another depth to “Over the Moon” considering the nuanced prologue has us meet Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) who is contending with the death of her young mother (Ruthie Ann Miles). Four years later, still relishing in her mom’s legacy and the tales of goddess Chang’e, Fei Fei who is now an ambitious 12-year-old, comes home for school to find out she’ll have a new mom (Sandra Oh) and a wily stepbrother (Robert G. Chiu). Upset by the news, Fei Fei, using her love for science and technology, decides to build a rocket to the moon. The plan being to prove Chang’e is real to her disbelieving aunts and uncles.
After a string of unsuccessful tests, the young tyke achieves lift-off and manages to meet Soo’s infamous Goddess who turns out to be a Katy Perry-esq diva singing autotuned pop songs for mass audiences. It’s also where “Over the Moon” loses air, as the family elements that take place on earth prove more compelling than a disjointed side quest to track down a “gift” for the demanding Goddess in space. But at least Fei Fei meets a fun, luminescent canine-like companion named Gobi (exuberantly voiced by Jeong) along the way, and we get to hear Soo’s dominant vocals – of which she earned a Tony nomination for “Hamilton” – to the backdrop of glistening CG animation.
Though none of the songs ever reach infectious “Let it Go” levels and sometimes impede the narrative trajectory (the rule of thumb in musicals is that you should sing because your emotions are so strong you can’t speak, something that only happens occasionally) – “Over the Moon” has enough gravitational pull to deliver a wholesome family friendly adventure.
OVER THE MOON is now streaming on Netflix