Over the Moon
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Glen Keane, John Kahrs
Writer: Jennifer Yee McDevitt, Audrey Wells
Starring: Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, Phillipa Soo
Genre: Animated, Adventure
Rated: PG for some thematic elements and mild action
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Inspired by the Chinese folktales told to her by her mother, Fei Fei builds a rocket ship in hopes of flying to the moon to meet the moon goddess, Chang’e.
Review: I ascribe to the “Pure Imagination” policy whenever possible. I love the magic of folktales. Old stories imbued with a wild sense of wonder that exist outside the realm of science and logic. “Over the Moon” is built around the Chinese tale of Chang’e, the moon goddess, who is said to have used an elixir of immortality and now resides on the moon. The annual Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in her honor. Part of the celebration includes leaving pastries on an open-air alter for Cheng’e to bless.
There are various versions of why Chang’e ended up on the moon, leaving behind Yi, her husband. “Over the Moon” references these different versions during family dinner conversations. Some tales paint Chang’e as a woman who went to the moon to escape her husband. Fei Fei, our young protagonist, believes in the romantic tale that paints Chang’e as a lonely character waiting for Yi to return to her. It is the version her mother told her.
This is significant because when Fei Fei’s mother dies, she envisions her mother as Chang’e, a woman waiting for her lover to join her in the stars. When her father begins to date a woman with an annoying son who obsesses over ping-pong and believes he has powers that allow him to pass through walls, Fei Fei turns her sights to the stars. She’ll build a rocket and visit Chang’e on the moon.
There are moments when “Over the Moon” is gorgeous cinema. There are also moments when the story drifts out of focus and the dynamics between characters radically changes without reason. It also has one song and sequence that is so cringeworthy that it nearly derailed the remainder of the film for me.
I recommend “Over the Moon,” particularly for younger audiences, but I found it to be underwhelming once the film shifts to its lunar location. It’s good. I wanted it to be so much better.