Over The Moon . The Most Gorgeously Derivative Animated Film Ever Made.

A reoccurring theme in recent cinema is the emergence of Hollywood trying to pander to Chinese audiences but this can also go the other way. A good example of this is the case of Perl Studios. Initially envisioned as the Chinese arm of DreamWorks under the name Oriental DreamWorks They rebranded during the production of DreamWorks Abominable (reviewed on this blog during initial release) and by the time that film was complete they had struck out on their own. Now they join forces with Netflix and Sony Pictures ImageWorks to bring forward a film that could distinctly be classed as another in the long list of Chinese productions with an inbuilt appeal to American viewers (Abominable was a good example of the reverse.) This has been done in large part thanks to Disney veteran Glen Keen in the director’s chair.
A very simple story centred on a girl (Cathy Ang and her desire to get to the moon and meet Chinese moon goddess Chang’e fit (Phillipa Soo.) It lands on Netflix with some degree of expectation having got their standard two-week theatrical run before arriving on the service. How Is the film?
I say this with no hyperbole. Over The Moon might just be the most gorgeous piece of animation that has been released at this point in 2020 (certainly the best looking since Spiderverse at minimum.)it’s a gorgeous blend of cartoonish ascetics in its real-world sequence combined with elements of outer space high fantasy Its simply stunning. There was clearly an attempt at all levels of this production to optimise the visuals so that a percentage of the audience will be more forgiving when they realise the plot and narrative structure are entirely stolen from any number of second renaissance Disney musicals. How individual audience members feel about the film overall will very much depend on their feelings towards the tropes popularised by modern Disney. This is not only present in the films spoken narrative but also the musical numbers that fit a very distinct Disney formula (Dead Parents Song, I Want Song, Otherworldly Introduction, Villain Song .) The numbers themselves fit the mould of any number of contemporary pop musicals although they are solid enough with some good replay value. If a watcher is only familiar with Philippa Soo through listening to her sing Burn on the Hamilton soundtrack hearing her attempt a rap flow for one of the tracks will be something of a surprise. All of this sounds like a very blatant lift from a working formula but it’s done with such a raw and beating heart that certain audiences (including this writer)will find it hard not to like.
Over The Moon is one of the most gorgeous pieces of animation ever released. .Audience feelings about it overall will very much depend on how they feel about a Chinese production copy-pasting the template of any number of modern Disney musicals. Critically these lifts are done with the films heart and sole very firmly intact. It will have a long life and large fanbase ahead of it for that reason. Any number of viewers might see the film as a cynical cash grab but for the right audience (including this author)it will be hard to resist the charms it offers.

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