Movie review: Over the Moon


Year: 2020
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Director: Glen Keane and John Kahrs
Writers: Audrey Wells
Stars: Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Sandra Oh, Ken Jeong, Jon Cho, and Ruthie Ann Miles

By Rosa Parra

With memorable songs, gorgeous animation, and an emotional story, “Over the Moon” follows Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), an intelligent girl who loves science, into space to prove the truth of her parents’ mythical stories, especially one about the queen of the moon, Chang’e (Phillipa Soo of “Hamilton”).

The animated musical streaming on Netflix Oct. 23 gives off Disney vibes, as it should considering it’s directed by Glen Keane, a 2018 Oscar-winner for the short film “Dear Basketball” about Kobe Bryant’s basketball career and an animator on “The Little Mermaid,” “The Beauty and the Beast,” and “Tangled.”

Storytime in “Over the Moon”

The 2-D animation in the beginning of the film flawlessly tells the story of Chang’e. Those first few minutes quickly engage the audience as we learn the importance of family, traditions, and cultural influences.

Fei Fei’s family owns a restaurant famously known for its mooncakes, bringing the family together in the making and selling of food. Fei Fei receives a special gift from her mother, a precious rabbit. Sadly, her mother soon passes away. The film depicts the girl’s journey through grief, coping, and learning to move on. 

Four years later, Fei Fei’s father (Jon Cho, “Searching”) brings a special person, Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”), to dinner. Fei Fei immediately realizes what’s happening and refuses to replace her mother’s memory. Treating Mrs. Zhong indifferently by declining her cooking suggestions on top of pushing away her future stepbrother, Chin (Robert G. Chiu), shows her frustration.

During the gathering, some attendees doubt the story of the queen of the moon being true, which triggers Fei Fei’s sensitivities. She reassures everyone at the table that her mother’s stories are factual, then sets out to prove their existence.   

Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) prepares to launch in “Over the Moon.”

The determined Fei Fei soon builds a rocket to take her to meet Chang’e personally. (As a science nerd, I was thrilled to see a young science genius assemble a rocket from her superb knowledge.) Before we know it, Fei Fei is ready to launch! She’s meticulously calculated everything when suddenly the rocket won’t boost. Chin secretly had boarded the rocket, drastically altering her weight estimates.

From this point forward, the film exudes a new form of life with vibrant colors accompanied by a variety of music. It’s further elevated through Soo’s voice as Chang’e, who runs away with this film. 

One of the vistas in “Over the Moon”

Films depicting relatable themes always have a special place in my heart. Losing my mother six years ago is an experience whose impact I still feel today. Being an only child further pulls me into a narrative like this.

While watching “Over the Moon,” I felt a sense of tranquility and peace for the first time in six years. It sounds clichéd, but this film helped me come to terms with closure and forced me to appreciate the people in my life. The script by Audrey Wells (“The Hate U Give”) is emotionally gripping, and learning its backstory only deepened my connection to the film. Several months after Wells submitted a first draft of the script, she died of cancer. The script reflected her heart and soul, a farewell love letter to her daughter. 

“Over the Moon” (clockwise from back left): Grandma (Irene Tsu), Grandpa (Clem Chung), Auntie Mei (Kimiko Glenn), Auntie Ling (Margaret Cho), Uncle (Artt Butler), Father (John Cho), Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), and her son, Chin (Robert G. Chiu). © 2020 Netflix, Inc.

Overall, “Over the Moon” is likely to activate the tear ducts with its emotional and powerful message of love, the value of family, the power of believing, and mother’s infinite love. This film is out of this world — literally.   

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