By Nadia Dalimonte
Over the Moon (2020)
“If you release the past, you’ll move ahead and bloom at last.”
Over the Moon is a stunning musical story about love, loss, and the magic of imagination. The songs are beautifully written and performed, covering genres from emotional ballads to fun EDM pop. The animation is gorgeous and the voice cast are exemplary at bringing the characters to life. An emotional opening sequence lays the foundation for a magical, moving adventure where the importance of Chinese tradition, family, and irreplaceable memories shine.
The story follows a bright young girl named Fei Fei, who grew up hearing her mother tell tales of a legendary Moon Goddess named Chang’e. The Moon Goddess took an immortality pill and lost her true love, Hoeyi. Now she waits for him on the moon above, with only her Jade bunny as company. Believing in Chang’e was one of the many special connections Fei Fei shared with her mother. So when the rest of her family cast doubts, Fei Fei (with THE most adorable pet bunny Bungee by her side) builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of the legendary Moon Goddess.
Fei Fei’s journey to the moon is a rocky one. She’d fly beyond the stars to keep the family she once knew. If her father could only believe again…things would be back to the way they were. Her resistance to family changes is met with a very enthusiastic young boy named Chin (along with pet frog Croak), who knows no barriers and is determined to be a good brother to a girl he just met. The sparkling moon and its universe beyond have life lessons and a new hope waiting for Fei Fei to discover.
The colourful reveal of the moon world Lunaria is coated with pixie dust animation and fantastical characters, from space lions and talking moon cakes to lunar leap frogs and a glowing green pup named Gobi (who took time to grow on me). Then there’s the ultraluminary Moon Goddess herself, and her Pop EDM debut is a jam, complete with wicked costume changes and Phillipa Soo's absolutely beautiful voice. Chang’e is one of the more intriguing characters of the story. Built from the tales of others, she reveals herself piece by piece as the possibility of bringing Hoeyi back looms brighter. Chang’e sets the world of Lunaria on a quest to find a mysterious gift that she needs before the last moon dust falls, otherwise Hoeyi will be gone forever. The quest takes Lunaria from a kaleidoscope of colours to the big darkness and an incredibly moving sequence of the song ‘Love Someone New’. When a new loss brings Chang’e to the Chamber of Exquisite Sadness, it is through the power of shared emotion that brings her closer to Fei Fei.
The question of how to move on from loss without darkness is explored with care in this adventure story. Charming characters carry home the importance of giving love. While the plot gets repetitive at times, there are so many resonating themes that will no doubt soar into the hearts of many. Aside from some temporarily threatening biker chicks, a villain is not needed. Lost loved ones, the process of releasing the past, and embracing the unexpected really carry this story to a heartwarming conclusion. The film begins with a family sifting apart through grief and moves towards a family coming together through healing, illuminating the real gifts in life.