VOD film review: Moon Man
James R | On 22, Apr 2014
Director: Stephan Schesch
Cast: Michael McElhatton, Pat Laffan
Watch Moon Man online in the UK: Flix Premiere / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
There’s something about curling up with a kids picture book that makes you feel instantly sleepy. When it’s Moon Man by Tomi Ungerer, the effect is doubly so. Heralded by Maurice Sendak as “one of the best books in recent years”, the story has been given the big screen animated treatment. But “big” is a misleading word, because Stephan Schesch and Sarah Clara Weber’s movie feels as small as they come.
The film follows The Moon Man (Katharina Thalbach), who gets bored and grabs the tail of a passing comet to visit Earth. Once landed, he becomes distracted by the colours and creatures – oblivious to the fact that without the moon, all the children on the planet can’t go to sleep. And, of course, to the power-hungry President of Earth (an amusingly hammy Ulrich Tukur), who takes the crash-landing of a fireball as an opportunity to invade Earth’s pale cousin.
Social satire in a bedtime story? It’s par for the course for Ungerer’s text, but this is far from spiky comedy; for all the silly sight gags in the background, this is a soft, sedate affair, one that spends more time in childlike delight at the fabric of the Moon Man’s surroundings than observing a grown-up’s political plans. The animation is striking, a warped, borderline surreal swirl of bumps and scribbles. In an age of polished 3D CGI, the hand-drawn visuals are charming – it’s no surprise to see that this is produced by the same people as the equally unique The Secret of Kells.
The music is soothing, too. The fact that Katharina Thalbach’s croaky vocals are seriously freaky is somehow cancelled out by the gentle, knowing soundtrack (full of lunar-related classics). With the script’s slow, almost lazy pacing, the simple plot is made easy for young’uns to follow, while the narrative feels driven by the dazzling drawings, letting big and little children alike slip in and out without confusion – a blessing, given the slightly stretched 90-minute runtime.
One scene where our E.T. drifts along in the woods admiring nature is lovingly accompanied by Louis Armstrong warbling Moon River. You’ll want to jump in and float right alongside him. The effect is so disarming, in fact, you find yourself gradually falling asleep. A word of advice: don’t.
Moon Man is available to watch online on Flix Premiere as part of a £3.99 monthly subscription.