Traditional Broadway to a blaring EDM insanity- Over The Moon
Netflix’s Over the Moon is the heart-warming story, following Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) on her journey to prove that love truly is eternal. Fei Fei struggles with the death of her mother from a terminal illness, then four years later she is faced with the fact that her father will be remarrying. Distraught and still grief-stricken, she construes this as her father (John Cho) forgetting about her late mother and so seeks out the goddess Chang’e, to prove that love is never-ending.
Fei Fei's plan, however, is thwarted by her adorably weird soon-to-be little brother, Chin (Robert G. Chiu) and the two almost-siblings end up crash-landing on the moon and carried away by two beautifully animated Chinese lions.
One of the most striking things about this film is the stunning quality and vibrancy of both the CGI and hand-drawn animation, that both complement each other beautifully and demonstrate the film’s coupling of traditional folktale and modern storytelling. On the flip side, Over the Moon does seem to exchange polished animation for charm and does not quite elicit goosebumps in the same way DreamWorks or Studio Ghibli have in the past.
Over the Moon features the incredible musical talent of Phillipa Soo as Chang’e who reigns over Lunaria, a visually stunning lunar kingdom of mooncakes, evil chickens and non-descript glowing blobs. Chang’e is introduced in an extraordinary musical number that visually resembles a Eurovision performance on acid.
It musically changes the tone of the whole film, which goes from being traditional Broadway-balladesque to a blaring mix of pop/rock/EDM insanity called Ultraluminary. This number seems to jettison all the conventionalism and predictability that was hinted at in the first act out of the airlock. This U-turn in terms of tone may momentarily take the audience by surprise as what was a gentle and ardent story about a young girl coming to terms with the death of her mother, becomes a frenzied and noisy race against time to find the “gift” that Chang’e needs to bring back her long lost love Hoyui (Conrad Ricamora). This newfound hyperactivity does border on distracting from the sincere and poignant nature of the film.
Though it may be unfair to compare every animated feature to the Hollywood conglomerate that is Disney, in this case, such comparison is not only undeniable but irresistible, since Over The Moon was directed by Glen Keane who was an animator at Walt Disney Studios and worked on features such as The Rescuers (1977), The Black Cauldron (1985) and The Little Mermaid (1989). Though brimming with originality, ground-breaking quality animation and spectacular musical talent, it is undeniable that Over the Moon takes some queues from the house of the mouse, including but not limited to: the obligatory tragic parental death and loveable animal sidekick.
Though these things are categorically classic tropes, Netflix has managed to execute both flawlessly, especially the loveable animal sidekick, Gobi (Ken Jeong) who succeeds in being everything Olaf from Frozen is not, including having a more meaningful character arc and- actually being funny.
Over the Moon simply has too much originality to be accused of simply mimicking.
Drawing on a Chinese legend, along with animated triumphs of the past, Over The Moon thanks to its original music by Steven Price, Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield and Helen Park, succeeds in firmly establishing its own personality and securely making its mark in the world of feature-length animation. It tackles the sensitive subject of death in a refreshingly honest way that does not patronise its core audience.
Nowhere in the film is this truer than when Chang’e sings the hauntingly beautiful song Love Someone New, where she finally gets Fei Fei to overcome her grief and learn to love again. This song also sees the film settle back into a more controlled pace, reflecting Fei Fei and Chang’e’s newfound peace, in accepting what they cannot change and coming out stronger.
Netflix has created an animated film that very much holds its own against any Disney counterpart of recent years in musicality, originality and cultural diversity. It resonates with audiences of all ages and blends the two worlds of fairy tale and sci-fi in the most magnificent way.
Definitely check it out over on the streaming platform, as a great film to watch as a family, or for those missing the grand Disney like animations, we would usually get in theatres!
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