The Reel Review
Heartbroken over the death of her mother, mathematically gifted young Fei Fei builds a rocket to go to the Moon and meet the wish-granting Moon Goddess, Chang’e, in this family-friendly, Asian-themed Netflix animated musical. It was written by Audrey Wells, prior to her death from cancer in 2018, as a love letter to her daughter and husband.
The film features absolutely gorgeous animation set to an eye-popping color pallet, and a poignant story jam-packed with a clever array of songs – some unexpectedly hilarious and some heartbreakingly poignant. Phillipa Soo (Hamilton), as the Moon Goddess Chang’e, knocks the tunes out of the park with her incredible vocals and animated costuming designed by haute couture designer Guo Pei. Cathy Ang is fantastic, bringing loads of heart to her vocal portrait as Fei Fei.
The story borrows heavily from such Disney hits as Inside Out, Big Hero 6 and Frozen. There is even a goofy Olaf-type character, Gobi, voiced by Ken Jeong (The Hangover, Crazy Rich Asians). While all the knockoffs/homages could easily have felt forced, in the context of this story, they blend together exceptionally well.
The strongest part of Over the Moon is the finalé, when the action slows enough to let Fei Fei and the Moon Princess Chang’e each confront their grief. It is a heartfelt, beautifully done tearjerker of a moment. The film’s message, about having the courage to move on after the death of a loved one, is deeply moving and handled with an impressive amount of sensitivity. Outstanding.
• Audrey Wells wrote 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun, and 2018’s The Hate U Give, which was released the day after she died of cancer in 2018. Over the Moon, which she also wrote that same year, is dedicated to her.
• Over the Moon is the directorial debut of Glen Keane, who was an animator on such Disney classics as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. Keane won an Oscar with Kobe Bryant in 2018 for their animated short film, Dear Basketball.
• Several notable actors lend their voices to Over the Moon: Sandra Oh (Under the Tuscan Sun), John Cho, Ken Jeong and Margaret Cho as Mrs. Zhong, Fei Fei’s father, Gobi and Auntie Ling, respectively.