Over the Moon (3 stars)

Over the Moon

A lunar adventure and a difficult goddess feature in this beautiful and likeable animated musical

Moving on is the message at the heart of a beguilingly beautiful animated adventure from Glen Keane and co-director John Kahrs. A Chinese-American collaboration between Pearl Studio and Sony Pictures Imageworks, it weaves Chinese mythical characters and a trip to the moon into a narratively familiar, song-filled story where a spirited girl struggles to accept the prospect of a blended family, following the death of her mother.

A character designer and animator on Disney classics such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin and a 2018 Oscar winner for his animated short Dear Basketball, the film marks Keane's feature debut as director. Cathy Ang voices the young Fei Fei, who clings to the myth of the goddess Chang'e, who supposedly waits heartbroken on the moon, hoping to one day be reunited with her deceased lover Houyi.

When Fei Fei's father (John Cho) finds a new woman (Sandra Oh), four years after her mother's death, the whizz-kid builds a rocket ship, convinced that proving the existence of Chang'e will show her father that true love is eternal, thus persuading him to stay faithful to her mother. She's sneakily joined by her soon-to-be stepbrother Chin (Robert G Chiu) on her way to the moon. With its glowing, floating creatures, the introduction of moon-based fantasy land Lunaria contributes an extra level of imagination.

In the film's design there are shades of Coco, Wall-E, Wreck-It Ralph and even Angry Birds, but it feels distinct enough. The songs are a pretty unmemorable selection, with one or two exceptions (including banging pop track 'Ultraluminary' which introduces Chang'e – fun work from Phillipa Soo – in amusingly outlandish, diva style), but their presence adds emotion and uplift. It's a predictable, albeit well-constructed and communicated story from the late Audrey Wells (The Hate U Give, The Truth About Cats & Dogs), with a solidly uncontroversial message.

There's been a shortage of well-made family films of late and Over the Moon plugs that gap rather nicely with its plucky kids and cute creatures – including a rabbit called Bungee and a Ken Jeong-voiced green moon dog. There's enough loveliness and class acts in the cast to impress adults and it'll certainly enchant kids. And a bit of familiarity is no bad thing, especially when it features in a film that's otherwise so finessed.

Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 16 Oct and on Netflix from Fri 23 Oct.

Over the Moon

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US / China
  • 1h 35min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Glen Keane, John Kahrs
  • Cast: Cathy Ang, Robert G Chiu, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Sandra Oh, Margaret Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Artt Butler
  • UK release: 23 October 2020

A girl builds and flies a rocket ship to meet the moon goddess. Netflix steps into Disney territory with this family-friendly animated musical.