Turning Red

Disney Pixar

Written by Domee Shi, Julia Cho and Sarah Streicher

Directed by Domee Shi

Starring Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, James Hong and Jordan Fisher

Rated PG

A 13-year-old girl named Meilin turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited.

Disney and Pixar’s latest animated feature is another coming of age story in the vein as Inside Out. Meilin (Chiang) is a Chinese girl in the early 2000’s living in Toronto with her parents Ming (Oh) and Jin (Lee). Meilin does everything that is expected of her both at school and at home where she assists her mother in running the family temple and local tourist attraction. She excels in school and has a small group of friends. She’s also getting older and with that comes secrets that she keeps from her protective mother.

Turning Red is a fun, visually vibrant and relatable story about growing up with a twist. What makes the film work is how relatable the moments are for many. The interactions between Meilin and her friends are fun and universal as they deal with social embarrassment, alienation, bullying and budding romantic feelings. Their obsession with a boy band and desire to see them makes for some great comedic moments throughout the film.

Meilin’s relationship with her mother Ming is another great example of how animated features from Disney are evolving. Ming could easily be written as the villain of the piece and her obsession with keeping her daughter safe both before and after her transformation into a giant red panda could have gone sinister in its application but the film does a great job of making all of Ming’s motivations rooted in both her own fears and her love for her daughter. Even her helicopter parenting moments are sweet in their motivations while being completely embarrassing to Meilin.

Meilin’s transformation in the film is brought on by strong emotions and the comedy of a teenager going through physical and emotional changes is perfectly timed. Even when she embraces her panda side, Meilin’s emotions and their potential dangers teach an interesting and timely message in the film. What also works with that lesson is that her family, especially her father and extended family support her.

The film has some rough spots with the plot when Meilin and her friends decide to use the panda as a means of earning money to see their favorite boy band. The moments are cute, but take away a lot of the tension of Meilin’s journey. What puts the story back on track is the buildup of tension between Meilin and Ming and what happened to Ming to make her so scared of her daughter becoming the panda. Those moments are beautiful and culminate into some great surprises and a wonderful ending.

The comedy in the film is really broad at times and the film definitely leans heavily into manga and anime style visual tropes that are fun, lively and entertaining to see. Turning Red is a great family film that showcases how changes of any kind can be scary, but that having a support system that is willing to see you through those changes is a gift.

Turning Red

9.1

9.1/10

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