“Mune” was released in France in 2015 and earned both the Young People’s Jury Award at the TIFF Kids International Festival and Best Film at the Tokyo Anime Awards.
Last year, GKIDS gave “Mune” a qualifying US release for Academy Awards consideration. It was one of a record 27 animated films that competed for the five slots in the Best Animated Feature category. While the studio was not rewarded with a nomination, GKIDS has garnered nine Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations, which is the fourth most for any studio, behind only DreamWorks (11), Disney (10) and Pixar (10).
The English-language version of “Mune” features an all-star cast of animation veterans, including Rob Lowe (Simba on Disney Channel’s “The Lion Guard”), Ed Helms (most recently the voice of “Captain Underpants”), Christian Slater (“FernGully”, “Igor”), Patton Oswalt (Remy in “Ratatouille”) and comedian Jeff Dunham (“Smurfs: The Lost Village”, this weekend’s other new animated film – “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature”).
“Mune” comes from the same producers as “The Little Prince”. That 2015 French animated film received an English-language treatment for Netflix, and featured Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams and Paul Rudd. It was also qualified for last year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar.
The new version of “Mune” is a bold, unique and stunning epic fantasy. The concept is basic, but the story is taken in some rather complex directions. At its core is a classic underdog tale: lunar fawn Mune, the purest creature in the universe, is chosen to be the new Guardian of the Moon, though he and everyone else know he’s far from qualified for the job.
The sun is also getting a new guardian. Sohone (voiced by Lowe) is the opposite of Mune – large, loud and cocky. He and everyone else are convinced he’s the perfect guy to protect the sun, a real hero.
But once Mune and Sohone become the new guardians, the Moon and the Sun quickly are put in danger from evil forces. The normal Day/Night cycle becomes out of balance, putting the future of the world in jeopardy. It’s up to Mune, Sohone and Glim, a smart, adventurous young girl made of wax, to bring the cycle back to normal and restore peace across their planet.
“Mune” isn’t the type of animated film you’d get from Hollywood. Most mainstream animation studios avoid topics such as life, death, harmony, sacrifice, revenge, regret, redemption and spirituality. They’re all on display in “Mune”. While there are plenty of attempts at ordinary dialogue-based and over-the-top physical humor, it’s the moments of pure elegance and drama that, accompanied by a soothingly effective score, make this film memorable.
As was the case with “The Little Prince”, “Mune” is visual feast, with imaginative characters that pop and glow on screen. The film devotes equal time to day and night sequences. And the surprise that the animation style changes from CGI to hand-drawn when the characters visit the Underworld is an absolute treat.
“Mune” does jump around at a frenetic pace at times. It may be a challenge for kids to keep up with everything (some of it is a little “out there”). And there’s plenty of symbolism bubbling under the surface. But rather than trying to dissect all the specifics, I recommend everyone – adults and children – simply go along for the ride. In the end, it’s worth it.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Mune: Guardian of the Moon” gets a B.
Running Time: 85 min.