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Over the Moon
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Glen Keane
scr Audrey Wells
prd Gennie Rim, Peilin Chou
with Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Robert G Chiu, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Artt Butler, Irene Tsu, Clem Cheung
release US/UK 16.Oct.20
20/US Netflix 1h35
Is it streaming?
With a gorgeous array of animation styles, this musical adventure tells a fantastical story that's underpinned by both mythology and a love of science. It's such an odd mix that it immediately catches the attention, playing out as a Chinese-flavoured Wizard of Oz-style odyssey with vividly nutty characters and some terrific songs. It's the kind of film that, if you let it, can send your imagination soaring.
Growing up in a Chinese village obsessed with all things lunar, Fei Fei (Ang) learns to make moon cakes with her baker parents (Cho and Miles). Four years after her mother's death, teen Fei Fei struggles to accept her father's new girlfriend (Oh) and her annoying 8-year-old son Chin (Chiu). Trying to recapture her happier days, she decides to prove that the Moon Goddess Chang'e is real. So she builds her own rocket, and with Chin as a stowaway finds herself in a fantastical realm of quirky creatures, overseen by the magnificent pop-diva Chang'e (Soo).
Playing on the iconography of the rabbit in the moon, with a nod to Alice in Wonderland, both Chang'e and Fei Fei have amusing bunny sidekicks (Chin has a frog). Each of the characters has bracing complexity, with emotions and intelligence beneath cleverly imagined surfaces. Unsurprisingly, the gifted Soo is the standout in the vocal cast, giving Chang'e some startling edges plus some fabulous pop songs. And in addition to the endearingly goofy Chin, Jeong provides some amusing comic relief as green moon-otter Gobi, who teams up with Fei Fei.
Even with characters who are this stylised, the animation has an almost photorealistic look to it, with vibrant colours and a range of startlingly tactile textures. This gives way to outrageously psychedelic visuals on the dark side of the moon, as the kingdom of Lunaria mixes sci-fi dazzle, videogame whizziness and a bold sense of colour-drenched wackiness. This range of styles is audacious in its out-there invention. It may feel perhaps a bit hyperactive, but each sequence is a feast for the eyes.
There's a dark emotionality at the centre of the story, as both Fei Fei and Chang'e are consumed by heartache, unable to move on. A song about the importance of giving love to someone new is beautiful. And the late Audrey Wells' script handles the themes with an unusual delicacy, keeping everything rooted in the characters with a careful balance of comedy, adventure, action and some moving drama. So it's thoroughly entertaining, and likely to linger as well.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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