Moonbound

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Based on a beloved 1915 German storybook by Gerdt Von Bassewitz, about a brother and sister’s nightly trip to space, Moonbound is a generic animated comedy that seemingly owes more to Pixar and Dreamworks than it does to its whimsical source material. The framework is loyal enough to the yarn, where Little Pete and his younger sister must escort a talking beetle to the moon to save its wife. There they find an assortment of charming characters, starting with the eccentric Sandman and ending with the dreamy Night Fairy.

It’s essentially the German equivalent to Peter Pan – siblings have nocturnal adventure in their pyjamas and are back before breakfast – and is just as beloved in its home country as Barrie’s story is in the UK. But this first ever big-screen adaptation of the tale may come as a disappointment to long-term fans, given that it sacrifices the book’s unique charm in favour of the typical American template of a children’s film – and this isn’t limited to the stock emotional arc (involving sibling rivalry, try-hard comedy and high-energy, wacky chase sequences that expel any potential sense of quaint European style).

Some of the blue and starry art design nicely recalls the book’s ethereal illustrations, but there’s an unfortunate lack of coherence for adults or children to latch onto. Like the book, various characters from folklore are included, but ultimately the film doesn’t translate everything well. The picture’s mismatched elements don’t segue fluidly and it really just feels like three movies crammed into one: the first, a generic family adventure drama, the second, an eco-friendly tale about a beetle, and finally, a role call of famous folkloric faces working as a dysfunctional group. If that wasn’t odd, the animation style even changes at one point, creating an even worse whiplash effect. It’s perhaps best not watch this film on television – one might think the channel has been accidentally changed. 

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