Coming of age stories are told in film all of the time – especially in animation. Disney in particular loves to make coming of age stories (with a side of tragedy to help make both kids and their parents cry). Take a look at Inside Out from a few years ago. It’s an incredibly unique film about the emotions in the head of a young girl, but at the center of it all is a coming of age story. Netflix’s Over the Moon is in a more similar vein to Disney’s Moana from a few years ago – though I’d argue it’s more successful in it’s emotional catharsis than that film was. This film is a coming of age story, so as the film started I wondered how it would standout in the crowd of similar films. I got my answer not too long into the movie, and that is incredibly gorgeous animation, great music, and a story while familiar – is full of heart and humor.
I have to start with the animation because it’s simply a marvel. The incredibly original ideas found in just a simple frame of this film are astounding to me. Once the film takes off into the more fantastical portion of it’s story, I was in constant awe of the animation on screen. The colors are plentiful, the creatures are unique, and the experience is like a vivid fever dream. With everything from giant luminescent frogs to a motorcycle scene that feels like Mad Max: Fury Road with a neon candy-coating, Over the Moon is one of the more impressive animated features I’ve ever seen.
With all of the work put into creating such visual splendor, there is bound to be a weak spot for the film. That weak spot is definitely the story and at times, the script. Now, the story isn’t bad by any means, it’s just relatively generic. Despite not being a Pixar production it fits the Pixar formula a little too well. I wouldn’t mind the predictability and sense of familiarity if the script was a little bit sharper, but you can often tell this film is written specifically for its younger audience. There’s not much for adults to cling to besides the occasionally funny joke (typically from Ken Jeong who does incredibly well in a role akin to Olaf from Frozen), a couple of emotionally relatable moments, or the stunning animation. Again, the story and script aren’t bad, they just don’t rise above standard children’s fare for the most part.
The music in the Over the Moon adds a nice spark to the film. The opening number reminds me of sonically of a Disney Renaissance film (specifically 1991’s Beauty and the Beast). There’s some beautiful vocal work done to especially by star Cathy Ang. I will say, there are two songs in the film (one leaning towards rap and the other towards pop) that I found to be relatively generic but it doesn’t defeat the mood overall. They just don’t live up to the energy of everything happening in the scenes surrounding them.
At the end of the film, I wasn’t torn on if I was going to recommend the film, but I was torn on who to recommend it to. Kids everywhere will adore this film for sure. Adults on the other hand will probably be divided. If you’re a huge fan of animation, art, or visual effects – you should definitely check it out. If you require your family films to have more edge like Laika’s Coraline or Kubo and the Two Strings, more nuanced depth like Pixar’s Inside Out, or an rousing soundtrack like Disney’s Frozen – than Over the Moon may leave you a bit wanting. However, if you’re down to get immersed an a fun experience with visuals similar to James Cameron’s Avatar, than you should definitely give this a watch. You’ll never want to look away from the screen after seeing this visual masterpiece.