Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
The trailer of this movie looked cute and fun enough that I was willing to wake up early on a Saturday to watch it.
This movie is a 2020 Chinese-American musical that fits into the genre of Fantasy. It is a Netflix original family movie made in collaboration with Pearl Studio.
The movie stars Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, and Sandra Oh.
A 12-year-old girl named Fei Fei has difficulty coping after the tragic death of her mother. When a new woman comes into her father’s life years later, Fei Fei is not ready to move on or accept this potential stepmother.
Fei Fei used to listen to her mother’s stories about Chang’e. Chang’e from the stories is a loyal woman who waits eternally on the moon for Houyi, her one true love. Fei Fei believes that if she can prove Chang’e is real, her father will remember how much he loved her mother and reject this new woman.
The story is one of a child grieving and moving on after loss.
- Relatable characters with strong character arcs
- Creative use of old Chinese story and some newly created myths
- Deals realistically with serious topics such as death and grief
- Songs that add to the narrative and affect the mood
- Intriguing setting
- Bright color scheme likely to grab attention of children
- The food looks appealing
- Fun for a wide audience
- Songs not catchy like Disney songs
- Alice in Wonderland vibes may be over-the-top for some viewers
- Transition to Lunaria a bit jarring
Fei Fei is a 12-year-old girl who loves stories, so much so that when her family disbelieves the story of Chang’e, she embarks on a journey to reach the moon to prove the story is true.
The realistic depiction of grief and the way it has hardened her heart against her potential stepmother and stepbrother gives her depth as a character.
Her development throughout the movie is believable and easy to sympathize or empathize with.
Chin is an 8-year-old boy who attempts to befriend Fei Fei. He has a pet frog and believes he has a superpower that lets him break through walls. He is amusing, likeable, and sweet.
Chang’e, when we meet her, is self-absorbed and manipulative. In the past, when she was with Houyi, she was known for her kindness. She is a singer who puts on performances and delights in costume changes.
The myth of Chang’e is tragic and the entire movie revolves around it. Fei Fei’s mother first tells the story of how Chang’e ascended to the moon after swallowing two pills that grant immortality, one which had been meant for her lover Houyi. There are various reasons given for her swallowing both, whether it was accidental or deliberate, necessary or unnecessary. The consequence is that she ascends to the moon without her lover, where she waits for him.
The movie adds to the myth by including the space dog, which takes a bite of the moon every night, and is said to be the reason the moon has phases. Additionally, in the movie, creatures called Lunettes are created by the tears of Chang’e.
The story was written by Audrey Wells, who wrote the story as a message to her family. Wells knew she would not live long enough to see the movie in its final form due to cancer, so the movie is about how to move on after the loss of a loved one.
Wells died on October 4, 2018.
The plot was not very predictable. I made numerous predictions during the movie, and most of them were completely wrong. I appreciate that the movie, even though its primary audience is children and families, was not cliché like many movies aimed at that audience.
The way that the story was told literally made my eyes tear up at parts, which is a testament to how well the message came across.
The songs were narrative in nature, helping to tell the story. They were not as catchy as Disney songs, but I still felt that they added depth and appeal to the movie. The best song was probably “Ultraluminary,” sung by Phillipa Soo.
Keane’s inspiration from the city of Lunaria came from Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” album cover and the art of Joan Miró.
The bright color scheme is likely to appeal to children, and the creative atmosphere is likely to appeal to all ages. Lunaria has orbiting bodies that surround the city like the rings of Saturn. The randomness of the setting contributed to the Alice in Wonderland vibes and the jarring transition. Personally, I can barely stand Alice in Wonderland, but this movie still manages to be thoroughly enjoyable for me.
The food looked so good during each meal, and the mooncakes were so delicious they made me want to make some myself. I have had mooncakes before at college, and while watching, the superb animation of the food brought back memories of the taste.
This movie will appeal to Disney fans, and is a charming musical for children and families. Even as a college student, I found it fun to watch with my roommate.
If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.