The Dark Herald Recommends Over The MoonThe Dark Herald
Some things need to hurt.
I am NOT about to cry. I am far too old to cry for a kid’s movie. It’s too early is all. I don’t have enough bile in my system yet, that’s all. A couple of Biden commercials should fix me right up...
A year ago, I went firmly on the record as stating with perfect conviction that Netflix was the strong horse with a weak chest in Streaming Wars Sweepstakes. And that Disney was going to be the winner in the end.
My reasoning wasn’t completely terrible. One year ago, Disney was in the position of being a python that had just swallowed the gorilla. Stronger for it eventually but uncomfortable in the meantime. Disney is an entertainment company and had always been an entertainment company. Every part of it was geared towards that function. That gave it a major edge over Netflix. Disney absolutely dominated the box-office, even its crappy films made billions. Its theme parks were the biggest and best in the world and were nothing short of moneymaking machines. Disney Plus wasn’t off to a great start. Even before the launch, everyone knew that Disney didn’t have a film library that was anywhere near big enough to support a streaming service but, the (drastically overpriced) purchase of Fox would take care of that problem…somehow…eventually.
What a difference a plague makes.
Netflix is the strong one and is moving in hard on Disney’s core market.
Disney on the other hand has had one of the worst collapses since ENRON. The parks are idled and costing a fortune just sitting there, except for Disney World which is at one-quarter capacity. And even when the theaters open again, nobody knows if the audiences are coming back. Star Wars is a severely damaged franchise. And Marvel is in the position that DC was in right after Nolan’s Batman Trilogy ended. The old story has ended and there isn’t a new one that anyone is interested in.
But Disney has a much worse problem than that. The cancer of Woke entertainment has thoroughly metastasized. It has invaded every organ of the entertainment body. It has become completely unthinkable to start a production without first going through the Woke checklist. Does this film have X number of minorities? Which minorities and how many? One or two Trans? Are the Impaired represented? Where does it fall on the inclusivity scale? Did anyone make the ghastly mistake of having a romantic pairing of a white man and a white woman? If this is already a known property, what characters need to be gender-bent and/or race swapped? Did we forget to put in someone who is cishet? I suppose we don’t need to worry about that last one.
Under the new rules, you could not, absolutely not make the Harry Potter movies today. Or the first Avengers movie. And obviously not Star Wars. Under the new rules, you are only allowed to make a film with a nine-figure budget if only 33% of the general population will consider seeing.
These checklists have resulted in the complete creative stultification of Disney.
The extent of Disney’s creative mortality is obvious if you compare Netflix’s Over the Moon with any Disney film made in the past twenty years.
Let’s be clear about something, I am no fan of Netflix. Any company that puts Susan Rice on the board and streams a pedo-magnet like Cuties does not enjoy my support.
Beloved Readers: So how did you watch Over the Moon?
TDH: RUDE! Never ask someone if they have done something illegal.
Regardless, Over the Moon reflects a creative vitality that Disney has not demonstrated since the end of its Nineties Renaissance. PIXAR turned in several good movies during the period when they weren’t owned by Disney but, after the merger, it went downhill into sequel land in a hurry. The animated films under the Walt Disney label have been consistently weak for twenty years. There is the occasional good effort, like The Princess and the Frog. But none of these films really touched the heart because Disney cannot make anything that does touch the heart anymore. Its creative process filters out genuine creativity. And no organization that is as morally bankrupt as Disney Entertainment can produce anything that truly makes people feel.
Netflix (while pretty immoral in its own right) doesn’t really seem to have much of a creative process, yet. Consequently, the good isn’t being filtered out yet. In less than one year they have launched two of the best-animated family films I’ve seen in the past 20 years.
Last Christmas, we had Klaus, which featured a very welcome return to hand drawn animation.
And now with, Over the Moon (which unfortunately is not hand drawn), we have a great family movie that takes on a subject that’s hardest thing a child can go through, the death of a parent.
One problem that Disney has had for the entire 21st century, has been empowerment pandering. And truthfully from what I’ve been able to dig up, Over the Moon was going to have the same problem. But then the writer who had been hired to make a movie about a girl building a rocket to take her to the moon was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This script became Audrey Wells’s almost literal Swan song, it was her last writing and clearly and obviously her very best. It was a story that she was writing for her own daughter and husband.
The story takes place in China and I suspect that unlike Mulan, the Chinese will actually like this one. The opening scene shows a family of three, Dad the Scientist, Mom the Creative Dreamer, and their daughter who is, naturally, a fusion of the two.
Mom is telling the daughter, Fei-Fei, the more “romantic version” of the legend of the Houyi the Archer and Moon Goddess Chang’e. The theme of the heartbreak of losing a loved one is established. We then get a montage of Fei-Fei’s life in her parents’ restaurant. It is mentioned in passing that Fei-Fei, is the number one student in her class (my Chinese friends just rolled their eyes). But then we see that something is wrong with the mother. As the song progresses it becomes obvious that she is deteriorating quickly. During a trip to the pond we saw in the opening scene, her dying mother gives Fei-Fei a baby bunny as a present. And the song ends with little Fei-Fei curled up on her bed, alone.
This was the part that I was manfully refusing to have the sniffles about. Yes, it was that effective.
Story moves ahead to four years later. A respectable period of time for a widower has gone through the mourning process. Dad is now ready to get on with his life. And yes, you have figured correctly how he’s doing this. Mrs. Zhong suddenly enters the story. There is no Mister Zhong anymore it would seem. There is however an exceptionally rambunctious son named Chin. While Mrs. Zhong seems to be a very nice person and is trying hard to win over Fei-Fei. Fei-Fei is not receptive.
And Fei-Fei becomes very upset when she learns that her Dad and Mrs. Zhong are planning to get married. Not least because this means that the infuriating little boy, Chin, is going to become her little brother.
She becomes convinced that if she can get to the Moon and prove to her Dad that Chang’e is real, so he won’t remarry because true love is forever. That actually works better than it sounds.
Regardless, the story is a standard three-act structure and this script is clearly following the Save the Cat formula of an A story which is the above board, main plot and the B story where the protagonist Fei-Fei has a conflict about what she wants (her father to not re-marry) versus what she really needs (to let go her mother and find new love in her life as represented by Chin, who desperately wants to be her brother).
Consequently, Fei-Fei builds her rocket, (a maglev hybrid system that engineers actually do dust off and look at every now and then). She takes off for the moon but discovers that Chin has stowed away aboard, and now her rocket weighs too much. Science now leaves the building and she is rescued by a pair of glowing foo dogs (I think). She is taken to the moon where Chang’e does indeed dwell and now lives like a C-Pop rockstar.
That is all of the plot you are getting because you can get all of that from the trailer. No other spoilers.
You can tell the layout designer was French from the color palette used once the story got to the moon. The songs weren’t weak but I doubt if there is a, “Let It Go,” level of hit lurking in this film.
I was relieved to see that the critical response is only a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Anything higher and I would be doubting my own good taste. The negative responses to Over the Moon were from the people I expected. If you have not soul, it can’t be touched.
I can’t say it’s perfect because it’s not. The question of where did “the gift” come from is never answered.
Regardless, this film dealt superbly with its main theme of the loss of a loved one. It’s something that is going to happen to every child one day and they will have to learn how to deal with the pain.
Because some things need to hurt.
The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm.