Over the Moon, 2020.
Directed by Glen Keane and John Kahrs.
Featuring the voice talents of Ruthie Ann Miles, John Cho, Cathy Ang, Sandra Oh, Robert G Chu, Phillipa Soo and Ken Jeong.
After the loss of her mother to illness Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) builds a rocket ship, jets into space and take her new step-brother Chin with her.
This Netflix production combines the best elements of Disney and Pixar to produce an animated musical hybrid which is joyous. Plucking influences from both Over the Moon celebrates family, explores loss and embraces emotional renewal without missing a beat. It tells the story of a girl called Fei Fei endearingly voiced by Cathy Ang, who travels to outer space and rescues a moon goddess from an eternity of loneliness.
With Hamilton veteran Phillipa Soo on princess duties, Over the Moon offers up tune after tune that is both narratively progressive and just plain catchy. Directors Glen Keane and John Kahrs add layer after layer of nuance, ensuring that these people come alive beyond those musical theatre set pieces. Jon Cho of Star Trek fame and Sandra Oh from Killing Eve also add a degree of gravitas, while Ken Jeong and Robert G Chu lighten the mood.
Tipping its hat to films like The Explorers these film makers revel in the power of imagination, the redemptive qualities of perspective and bring audiences along for the ride. By weaving mythology so delicately into the fabric of this coming of age story, Over the Moon touches on universal themes which transcend its Far East location. Dialogue is sharp, comic asides are subtle and fantastical elements never scrimp on the fantasy.
Thematically the writers have handled the subjective notion of grief and loss for a child with care. Symbolism through ancient amulets, visual representations of emotional voids and emblematic images of family feel measured. Hope is paramount amongst the feelings which are shared throughout and darkness is tempered with banging show tunes. Visual invention and just the right amount of orchestral heft also add an additional layer of balance, to something which already shines like a new pin.
Unlike rival studios who have tried and failed to match the mastery of Disney, Netflix has proven here that there is life beyond Pixar. For those who look at Over the Moon and see it as a flag waving exercise for diversity just wait two seconds. Location and ethnicity are irrelevant here in terms of story. Folk tales are eternal tales of supreme sacrifice tempered with hope, filled with allegorical meaning and shaped by universal truths. Animated films have now moved beyond the simplicity of Disney’s original back catalogue, which is why reinvention should be welcomed not derided.
For better or worse the world has gotten smaller and divisions between nations are now non-existent. Now more than ever there should be an acknowledgement of that fact and what better way than through film. Neither a slave to language nor beholden to political influence, Over the Moon celebrates our similarities through simplicity and uses campfire fables to great effect.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★