Over the Moon is a fun, colorful musical about loss and moving on

Over The Moon - Credit: Netflix
Over The Moon - Credit: Netflix /

Over the Moon is an animated musical all ages will enjoy

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.

They’ve worked as animators on beloved classics like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, A Bug’s LifeToy Story 2, and The Incredibles just to name a few. So it’s to be expected that they’d join forces on a film with a screenplay by the late Audrey Wells that doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations.

What is Over the Moon about?

Over the Moon is about loss and learning to move on. We caution viewers, especially those with children, who may struggle with the subject matter of a parent’s death or the loss of a loved one to be aware of the film’s premise. While Over the Moon is chock-full of color, bouncy pop songs, and scientific wonder it deals heavily with grief and processing change.

Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), our young heroine, has always loved the story of Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) the moon goddess. Chang’e has been separated from her love, Houyi (Conrad Ricamora), for thousands of years due to a potion that granted her immortality. Legend says she waits on the moon to one day be reunited with Houyi.

It’s a story that Fei Fei clings to after her mother (Ruthie Ann Miles) succumbs to an illness the film doesn’t name. She likens her parents’ love to that of the tragic romance between Chang’e and Houyi. 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.

A mixture of storytelling and emotion

The first third of Over the Moon focuses on the reality of Fei Fei’s life. She’s the child of bakers that live in a small Chinese town. 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. Her father is more practical, but he leaves room for Fei Fei’s creativity and inquisitive nature to spark experimentation.

These opening sequences highlight the support Fei Fei and her father have in their family both before her mother’s passing and afterward. She learns how to make moon cakes under their tutelage and cooking is an important bonding experience in the film. 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. Thank goodness, Fei Fei is an engineering prodigy!

Through determination, a teacher’s inadvertent assistance, and her father’s apparent willingness to have a bottomless experiments fund, Fei Fei designs and executes a functioning space rocket. Unfortunately, Chin sneaks onboard, which throws off her carefully done calculations and nearly sends them plummeting to their deaths. Luckily, the fantasy element of the film immediately kicks it into high gear and they’re transported to the moon.

We won’t spoil Chang’e’s introduction for you, but Over the Moon‘s best musical and animated sequence belongs to her song “Ultraluminary.” Soo’s performance is impeccable. It’s a standout moment that the film owes much of its memorability to because of its pleasantly surprising divergent musicality from the songs before.

The last two-thirds of Over the Moon take place primarily on the moon as Fei Fei and the Lunarians race to find the gift Chang’e needs in order to bring Houyi back. Fei Fei deals with biker chicks, befriends a glowing dog-like creature who was exiled and works through her grief along the way. 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 Moon is a delightfully weird and incredibly earnest movie with a message of moving on being necessary for growth and letting new things and people into your life.

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. The film’s musical moments are smartly placed, and you’ll likely be searching for some of the songs to add to your playlist including a love song that is sung in both Mandarin and English.

Over the Moon is a movie the whole family can enjoy or anyone who wants to go on a lunar adventure with a whip-smart, grieving child and her rambunctious soon to be brother.

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