Moon Man is an offbeat animated film that is full of beautiful images, but lacking the narrative scope one would expect for a feature-length film. Based on the popular children's book by Tomi Ungerer (who also narrates), the film follows the man in the moon as he hitches a ride on a comet to Earth. Bored with his life in space, the Moon Man becomes delighted by Earth's natural wonders.
Meanwhile, Earth's nations have all come under the rule of a single power-mad president. Advised by a sultry woman whose red hair is magical (and who seems oddly like Melisandre, The Red Woman from Game of Thrones), the president decides that the Earth is not enough for him and that he needs to annex the moon next. When he learns that an extra-terrestrial has crash-landed, he fears there has been a preemptive strike by the moon's army.
The president goes to the inventor of everything, Dr. Bunsen van der Dunkel, to build him his own comet to go to the moon. Bunsen, being more intelligent, suggests building a rocket instead. As chance would have it, the Moon Man also comes upon Bunsen's home/workshop, and the inventor and extra-terrestrial become friends. Without the Moon Man up in the night sky to watch over them, the children of Earth find themselves unable to go to sleep, so Bunsen decides to use his rocket to send the Moon Man home, instead of sending the president on his less worthy mission.
I am unfamiliar with Ungerer's book, but I'm sure this story unfolds perfectly as a 40-page picture book. As a ninety-minute feature film, it's stretched pretty thin. While kids might get wrapped up in the colorful scenery and the mellow musical score (punctuated by a few rock cues, like "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," oddly enough), it might be hard to keep adults from falling asleep.
The film also seems to frequently ape Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, despite its source material being published fifteen years before Spielberg's film was released. Katharina Thalbach performs the Moon Man with a low grumbly voice that sounds very much like the odd-shaped squishy visitor who was so fond of Reese's Pieces and his buddy Elliott. Once Bunsen teaches the Moon Man a few words, and the Moon Man points at the sky and says the phrase, "Go home," the aural resemblance is undeniable.
It's hard to judge a film with a warm, optimistic attitude like this too harshly. Moon Man is never particularly terrible or particularly excellent. It is consistently pleasant throughout.
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