Originally released in 2012 as a short film, German animation Moon Man (Der Mondmann) now emerges on DVD as feature length and redubbed into English. Based on the 1967 children’s book by illustrator Tomi Ungerer, who also brought us the delightful illustrations of Flat Stanley, the film has a unique and eccentric charm and sense of innocence.
Lonely and bored in his secluded home, the Moon Man grabs his chance and hitches a ride to Earth on a passing comet. Curious about this new world he strolls through woodlands and towns, gazing in wonder at his surroundings. Meanwhile, now that he is master of his own planet the power-hungry President of the Earth (Ulrich Tukur) seeks to conquer the moon. Learning of the Moon Man’s arrival he sends his henchmen to capture him whilst he tricks reclusive scientist Dr Bunsen van der Dunkel (Thomas Kästner) into building a space rocket he can fly to the moon. However it soon becomes clear that the Moon Man’s absence from his rightful home is causing sleepless, disquieted nights for all the children on Earth – can he return home with the help of Dr Bunsen before the President catches up with him and become once again the guardian of sleeping children?
The simple but tremendously effective animation in Moon Man gives a real nostalgic feeling of delving into the colourful pages of a book – a refreshing change from modern 3D animation. As the Moon Man walks around it feels as though you are journeying with him. There are some strong themes in this little film: political influence as the President’s devious wife (Corinna Harfouch) whispers suggestions into his ear Lady Macbeth style and the unending search for power and control in the adult world. The resonating theme however is friendship and with the help of great characterisation, voicing, heart-melting dialogue and symbolic songs like Moon River and It’s Only a Paper Moon, it is this theme that will stir up emotion in children and grown-ups alike. The film is heart-wrenching and funny in equal measure but the plot may be a little drawn out and flitting to hold the attention of kids of all ages.
Whilst today’s Hollywood animations opt for tongue in cheek humour, Moon Man instead uses a mix of this and random visual sequences, even including a bizarre off-screen sex scene between the President and his wife. Whilst this is clearly intended to be quirky humour to draw in the adults, it just comes across as oddball and out of place within this children’s book setting. However this is off-set by some lovely child-like humour that will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye. The Moon Man himself is such a simplistic little character yet so unique and full of personality. If you are the kind of person who sobs while watching the likes of Silent Running, Wall-E or E.T. then look out for this one as the whimsy and innocence of this little creature evokes reams of emotion. As the voice of the Moon Man, Katharina Thalbach has the ideal blend of depth and distinctiveness to provide a unique voice for this bizarre, translucent little man.
With a nostalgic, picture-book charm that wraps you in the warm blanket of childhood, Moon Man is an utterly adorable lunar delight – watch it just before bedtime.