Although the Mid-Autumn festival is well behind us now, “Over the Moon” is still a perfect movie to watch for people who want a heartwarming family story. When paired with the fun and bright animation as well as the classic tear-jerking songs typical of many good animated films, “Over the Moon” checks all the boxes needed for a perfectly perfect movie for any and all to watch.
“Over the Moon” follows the story of Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), a bright young girl who goes to the moon in order to prove to her family that the mythical Chang’e exists. In Chinese mythology, Chang’e is the goddess of the moon—who, after accidentally swallowing immortality medicine, is separated from her love Hou Yi. Fei Fei’s mother (Ruthie Ann Miles) teaches this story to both her daughter and the audience, instilling the concept of true love being a thing that lasts forever.
Though a touching concept, perhaps, it spirals once Fei Fei learns that her father (John Cho), after the death of his wife, is moving on with another woman. Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), this new woman, is kind and clearly trying to get to know Fei Fei, but our protagonist has other plans. Desperate to prove to her father that true love—the love that he felt for Fei Fei’s mother—exists and therefore must last forever, Fei Fei decides to fly to the moon and prove that Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) and her story of true love are real.
With a touch of family movie magic, Fei Fei does indeed reach the moon and what unfolds from there is a beautiful story about learning how to heal from grief. This concept is best demonstrated to the audience when Fei Fei meets Chang’e, who’s desperate to bring Hou Yi back to herself. It’s no secret that Chang’e and Fei Fei are meant to mirror each other: both characters, while living completely different lives, are still struggling to let go of their grief.
We get hints of these themes in the beautiful musical numbers, ranging from the triumphant “Rocket to the Moon” to the haunting “Yours Forever (Reprise),” sung by Phillipa Soo and Conrad Ricamora, are all numbers that are going to stay with the audience for a while yet. A personal favorite, “Wonderful,” has a gentle ukulele as well as soft lyrics like “if you release the past, you’ll bloom at last;” this particular song about healing and learning to love the world even despite your own pains will undoubtedly move even the colder hearts of the audience. These more emotional numbers, combined with the more cheerful pop-infused songs like “Ultraluminary” (Chang’e’s rock-star-like entrance) and “Hey Boy” (taking place in an intense ping-pong game) add another level of fun and enjoyment to the movie.
In addition to the beautiful music, the characters are all an absolute delight to follow. Chin (Robert Chiu), Mrs. Zhong’s son, is an enthusiastic and cheerful presence, who, unlike Fei Fei, is excited for their families to join together. Even despite Fei Fei’s initial hostile attitude, he wants to help her on her little quest. And although Fei Fei expresses exasperation and annoyance with Chin, the audience finds Fei Fei subconsciously picking up Chin’s little quirks (ie. playing leapfrog, dangling “like a ding bat!”). The movie also wouldn’t be quite complete without more companions. Gobi (Ken Jeong), the bright green moon pangolin, is an equally cheerful presence who captures the well-loved archetype of a character who, despite being given reasons to be bitter, is actually kind and gentle.
As for Fei Fei herself, she’s understandably frustrated with her new family situation. She’s stuck in her own grief, and so her attitude is much harder and sharper than those of Gobi and Chin, but she’s still kind. She takes quickly to Gobi, and she’s glad to be reunited with Chin after they’re separated for part of the movie. Over the course of this approximately two-hour long movie, Fei Fei realizes that her heart can actually grow to fit more people into her life.
That said, Fei Fei’s development makes the movie all the more touching. “Over the Moon,” for all its seemingly cheerful music and bright animation and adorable characters, is surprisingly realistic and hard in depicting the struggle to heal after loss. Fei Fei’s and Chang’e’s desperation to get back some semblance of their old lives, whether it be with only having a two-person family or having an old love come back to life, are enough to move the audience to tears. However, in the end, when both Fei Fei and Chang’e don’t get what they want, there’s no sense of failure. What’s left in its place is the clear, gentle nudge from the movie for the audience to accept grief, move on. Learn to grow from here.
In conclusion, the movie, while incredibly bittersweet, is also healing in its complex exploration of grief and acceptance. So if you’re in the mood for a moving, tear-inducing film with a wonderful soundtrack, then move “Over the Moon” to the top of your watch list!