A musical cinematic tale about a young girl who goes to find the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e in a homemade rocket is making waves on Netflix right now. The film became the top-streamed movie or TV show on US Netflix over the weekend.
Over the Moon, co-directed by former Disney animators Glen Keane and John Kahrs, is a co-production between Pearl Studios — a Shanghai-based studio that was formerly known as Oriental DreamWorks — Sony Pictures ImageWorks and Netflix.
It currently has a critical rating of 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, while it also holds a score of 7 out of 10 on China’s notoriously stingy ratings site, Douban. One user on Douban says of the film, “the rhythm is tight, funny and sensational, and the music score is also excellent.” Another user compares the appearance of Chang’e to Mandopop superstar, Jolin Tsai.
The film follows a young girl named Fei Fei, who lives in a Chinese village modeled after the water town of Wuzhen in Zhejiang province, and who is learning about the Chang’e myth from her mother, referred to as Ma Ma, at the outset of the film.
As Ma Ma tells Fei Fei:
“Long ago, an ancient story, beautiful and kind Chang’e and a handsome man named Houyi were in love. But she took a magic potion, giving immortality, then she floated leaving her true love and she waits for him on the moon above. And that’s where she lives now, on the moon, with only Jade Rabbit to keep her company.”
Later they make mooncakes together, before Fei Fei’s mother suffers a nasty fall, the first sign of a terminal illness. Tragically, her mother dies, at which point we fast forward four years.
Fei Fei still treasures the memory of her mother’s stories about Chang’e. We also find that this older Fei Fei has a passion and talent for science. From then on Chang’e takes on a double meaning, making reference to a more modern use of the name, the Chinese lunar exploration program, which recently managed to land a lunar probe on the far side of the Moon.
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Shocked by the revelation that her father is engaged to remarry, Fei Fei uses her science know-how to build a rocket ship in order to fly to the moon and prove that Chang’e is real, landing on the far side of the Moon, in a fictional city called Lunaria.
The film is Pearl Studio’s second original release after Abominable, and follows similar story structuring as that 2019 film, with the action revolving around a child lead and mythological content (Abominable sees a group of kids accompany a yeti back to his home in the Himalayan mountains).
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The studio has previously stated an aim to publish at least one film per year. Future films on their slate include an adaptation of the Sun Wukong (aka the Monkey King) story, as well as an untitled Chinatown project that is set to be executive produced by Tigertail director Alan Yang.
Speaking to the themes of family, food and Chinese culture that dominate the film, executive producer Janet Yang tells RADII, “The key for me was to make the film accessible to anyone. Placing it in a contemporary setting was the first step. Chang’e, having lived thousands of years ago, would be a harder character to relate to than a girl living in China right now.
“Those of us who have experienced China know that people on both sides of the Pacific have much in common — love of family, love of food, and a desire to dream.”
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