Glen Keane’s directorial debut levitates with colors and positive messages.
I was expecting the new animated feature “Over the Moon” to be a kiddie feature, especially since its uses jokes about adult diapers and little brothers. It is a kiddie feature, but it’s also a cute, visually stunning and good-natured one-the kind more suitable for its targeted audience than Robert Zemeckis’ “The Witches.” It’s also the directorial debut of Glen Keane, the famed Disney animator (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and the second feature from Pearl Studios, which gave us last year’s “Abominable.” I wasn’t that big into the movie for its overdose on comedy, although I admired its main heroine and her creature friend, but “Over the Moon” is an improvement on that.
Yes, it has obligatory elements, like the death of a parent, the teen disapproving of her soon-to-be step-parent, and step-brother, and the comic relief goofball, but it also provides kids with positive messages about your deceased loved ones always being with you, no matter how distant you are. You have to use stepping stones in order to give them that message. And it even gives the older crowd a dazzling vibe. Not the kind we’ve seen in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but the kind that bounces around and shines bright.
The story, set in China, involves an ancient Moon goddess by the name of Chang’e (voiced by Philippa Soo), who was swept away to the moon from her one and only true love Houyi, and the one girl who always believes in her is Fei-Fei (voiced by Cathy Ang). Her late mother (voiced by Ruth Ann Miles) always told her stories about the Moon goddess, and the magic she and her Jade rabbit conjures up. Years later, her father (voiced by John Cho) decides it’s time to take the next step by marrying a single woman (voiced by Sandra Oh), whom Fei Fei immediately disapproves of. Especially since her future step-mother has a rambunctious son named Chin (voiced by Robert G Chiu), who believes he can run through walls.
So to convince her father not to marry her, she decides to build a rocket, use rails for a maglev train, and travel to the moon to find Ching’e. The three passengers she brings along are her pet bunny Bungee, the stowaway Chin, and his pet frog, and when they do get there, it’s a colorful utopia. All the colors are bright and stretchy, capturing the lights of glow sticks, and its inhabitants include moon cakes with a gummy complexion, flying lions that have magic breath (so the Earthlings can breathe on the moon), and various animals and creatures.
Ever since she lost her love, Chang’e has basically become a rude pop-star, who requires the girl to find her a rare object that can bring him back. And the comic relief character the goddess banished is her dog-like royal advisor Gobi (voiced by Ken Jeong), who glows in the dark.
The songs in “Over the Moon” are not memorable and a little time consuming, but they do have a somewhat “Frozen” quality in them, and the animation and voice actors help bring them to life. It has its strengths and weaknesses, and manages to overcome them by balancing its moods and tones, and by providing a strong heroine. And I admire its Chinese theme, which captures the grace and styles of “Mulan” and “Kung Fu Panda.”
Again, unlike “The Witches,” this movie will allow little kids and maybe the older ones to have a good time, and learn some honest life lessons along the way.
Available on Netflix