Netflix has really gotten ambitious when it comes to animation. Since 2018, they've really decided to throw their hat in the game and have put out quite a selection of animated movies with varying degrees of success either from their own animation studio or outsourced by other studios. With that said, they still need to find a good seal of quality when picking up certain animated movies. While they've put out fantastic animated movies like "Klaus", they also have released huge duds like "Duck Duck Goose". It's clear they're not perfect, but they are ambitious and even have set large goals to really get into the animation scene with "Over the Moon" being their latest new film. The film is from famed Oscar-winning Disney animator Glen Keane who animated many of the best films from Walt Disney Animation Studios and John Kahrs who directed the excellent short "Paperman" also at Disney. With both together directing a new animated film, I was extremely excited and I certainly did enjoy this film after watching it. It's certainly not as good as I think it could be, but it still was a very enjoyable animated film that I really admired.
In a Chinese town, a fourteen-year-old girl named Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) has been living a somewhat melancholy life with her father (John Cho). Her mother had died four years earlier and to make matters worse, her father is planning on getting remarried to a new woman (Sandra Oh) and Fei Fei is soon to have an annoying younger stepbrother named Chin (Robert G. Chiu). After discovering that her father has stopped believing in the moon goddess, Chang'e (Phillipa Soo) that her late mother told her about, Fei Fei decides to build a rocket to the moon and she and her pet bunny Bungie hoping that it'll stop her father from getting remarried and sets off along with a stowaway Chin. They reach the moon and the palace of Chang'e where it's revealed she is awaiting a gift from Fei Fei. Unsure of what it is, Fei Fei sets off to find the "gift" hoping that way she can get proof that the moon spirit to show her father.
Netflix has recently stated that they really want to step up their game with animation and want to battle Disney in terms of feature film animation. I also have a feeling they think this film is certainly going to win them the Oscar this year for Best Animated Feature and while I'll say it's good, Netflix still has a long way to go to win an Oscar or even try to beat Disney. This isn't the huge groundbreaking film that they think it is, but with that said it's still very good and you can't go wrong with a good animated film. The story though is easily the weakest part of the film. It does do a lot of risks and it throws a lot at the wall hoping to see what sticks and I think a lot of moments do work really well. A lot of the emotional moments do pay off in the film and feel nice and tender. With that said, not all of it works. The first few scenes back on Earth were not particularly fun and were a little painful to watch and I also think that the screenplay could've gone through another draft to seem less standard. The film does feel reminiscent of other animated movies with "Coco" being a big one in particular and unfortunately, the film doesn't really stand out too much amongst its competition. The script was written by the late Audrey Wells who passed away two years ago after finishing the script for this film and while I respect the filmmakers honoring her last wish by making this film, I think they should've given the script another polish before starting the animation. With that said, I think the third act really pays off in particular which is what makes the film really stick its landing after going through some weird hoops. As far as the animation goes, it's easily the highlight of the film and the biggest reason why to watch it. This is an absolutely stunning film that really has a lot of striking visuals. The scenes on the moon use a very stylized approach to the film's computer animation and it is absolutely dazzling. It's so bright and colorful and just an eye-popping experience. This film really does push the boundaries of what computer animation can do in a big manner and I easily feel it's what makes the film such a wonder to see. It also helps that the film has some great character designs from both Keane and Jin Kim who had helped design many iconic Disney characters from the last decade. Speaking of the characters, most of them did work even if some were off-putting at first. Fei Fei is a decent protagonist. She's not as strong or original as she could be, but I think she works for her dedication and passion. Chin really started off as annoying at first and didn't work for me a lot though he got a lot more tolerable as the film went along as did the character of Chang'e. There are also some cute side characters in the film with Bungie being a very cute animal sidekick that had some cute moments and a moon creature named Gobi (Ken Jeong) being a decent comic relief even if he reminded me too much of Olaf from "Frozen". I'd also like to add the film is a musical and while the songs are nicely written, I don't think they left a huge impression on me with most coming and going except for a weird K-pop number where Chang'e sings her introduction. I'll give it credit that it's visually stunning, but it was such a weird scene to watch.
Honestly, I can sum up "Over the Moon" as a weird animated film though in a good way. The story isn't the strongest though benefits from strong emotional payoffs, the animation is strikingly gorgeous and easily the highlight of the film, and the characters do work even if they're not the most original or aren't always written the best. This film is certainly an ambitious animated film from Netflix and I'll give it credit for that and I did enjoy it. I don't think this film is the gamechanger Netflix thinks it made, but I still found it really good enough that I do recommend it. It's a good animated movie that is worth taking a flight to see.