Netflix’s Over the Moon premiered a little too late — three weeks after the actual Moon Festival. Critics have compared the animated musical adventure to a lesser replica of Pixar’s Coco, but it’s more like a messy stir fry consisting of recycled characters and tropes.

Coproduced by Shanghai-based Pearl Studio, Over the Moon essentially borrows its lead character Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) from the studio’s previous animated film, Abominable. Both films tell the story of a teenage girl who embarks on a life-changing adventure as she grieves the loss of a parent — they share a similar personality and even haircut. Fei Fei’s stepbrother Chin (Robert G. Chiu) is a classic comic sidekick who fails to make an endearing impression, verging on annoyance.

Unwilling to accept her stepmother, Fei Fei wishes to prove to her family the existence of the moon goddess Chang’e, who has waited for her mortal husband on the moon according to legend. The 12-year-old Fei Fei plans a trip to the moon by building a rocket (somehow it reaches far enough for magic to happen).


Photo Credit: Netflix

Once Fei Fei lands on the moon and finds the legendary goddess, the gorgeous animation style takes an odd turn. Chang’e (Philippa Soo) makes her debut appearance in a K-pop style concert, surrounded by thousands of mini jelly creatures that lack dimensional details. The rest of the story is rushed through with Fei Fei’s unexciting search for the “gift,” ending with a hasty lesson of moving on.

Over the Moon offers nothing too fresh except for its Moon Festival themes and a nearly all-Asian cast of voice actors. While the portrayal of Moon Festival evokes nostalgia, especially for those familiar with Chinese culture, it borders on an exotic backdrop that woos international audiences or distracts them from the thin storyline. Younger viewers may find the spectacle fascinating, but the film would struggle to entice longtime animation fans.


Photo Credit: Netflix

The musical is packed with original songs, but none leaves a lasting impression except to highlight the spareness in spoken dialogue. Director Glen Keane deserves credit for the meticulously animated characters as well as elaborate scenes of mooncake baking and family cooking. The hand-drawn animation of Chang’e, though elegant, feels like a page ripped off from Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

With Abominable’s suspected propaganda still fresh in mind, Over the Moon also raises suspicions with a strange hat tip to China’s magnetic levitation trains. But the overdone mashups or recycled materials might just be an experiment to find the magical formula that would recreate Disney’s box office success.

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Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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