Friday 11 March 2022

Turning Red (Movie Review)

Pixar Animation Studio continues to deliver the goods with Turning Red, their latest coming-of-age adventure film. The movie is helmed by Domee Shi in her feature film directorial debut, whose work on the 2018 short film, Bao, had earned her an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. So anticipation for her latest project was always going to be high, which has only been further heightened by its intriguing premise and good-looking trailers. But does the film itself live up to those expectations, or does it manage to exceed them?

In Turning Red, 13-year-old Mei Lee seems to have everything figured out. She's a straight-As scoring student that balances her free time between helping out her mum at their family-run Temple and hanging out with her close-knit friends, Miriam, Abby, and Priya (not to mention the bond they've forged over their shared obsession with the terribly misnamed boy band, 4*Town).

But beneath her cool exterior lies a girl still struggling to accept the changes that come with adolescence, least of which includes her sudden attraction to members of the opposite sex. And things become even more complicated when she also starts transforming into a giant red panda whenever she experiences an emotional outburst. Now she must learn to keep things under control or risk having her once-straightforward life come crashing down around her.

When it was first announced that Turning Red was going to be skipping theaters in favor of a Disney+ debut, I'd initially felt a jolt of disappointment. This was after all one of the films I was looking forward to the most in 2022, and the third straight Pixar film being sent to the streaming service following both Soul and Luca. But much like those other films had done in 2020 and 2021 respectively, this one also manages to shine despite being relegated to the small screen in key territories.

This has a lot to do with the movie's overall charm and its strong message about the value of friendship. Even though that message would appear geared towards teenage girls, much of what is depicted should be instantly recognizable for anyone who grow up in the late 90s or early 2000s, especially during the height of boy band mania. And while Mei Lee's hijinx are often played for laughs, watching her and her friends navigate adolescence and its inherent messiness is something we can all relate to on some level.

On the production front, Turning Red is completely gorgeous to look at. But I'm pretty sure you already knew that, given Pixar's past work and their tendency for producing top-of-the-line animation. A talented voice cast helps to bring that animation to life, including Sandra Oh as Mei Lee's mother, Ming. Brother and sister duo Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell also populate its soundtrack with some period-accurate pop songs, while Ludwig Goransson rounds out the score.

Turning Red captures enough of the old Pixar magic to make it a worthwhile watch for the entire family. It serves as a great metaphor for the various changes that accompany a young girl's transition to womanhood, while still resonating with young and older audiences alike with some of the funniest gags to make it into an animated film under the Disney umbrella. Above all, it is a film about accepting one's self, even if that might not fit into the broader expectations of others or the ones we care about the most.


  1. It didn't look that good to me so nice to know it's not the disaster I anticipated. We'll give it watch on Disney+.

    1. Lol. Cool. Plus I thought the trailers looked great actually. Then again, that was probably because I still have a soft spot for the music of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. 😁

  2. If you were doing an elevator pitch you could say, "It's like if Teen Wolf were written by Judy Blume." I think "Up" was the last Pixar movie I watched.

    1. Oh. Wow. You totally need to get caught up; we've gotten both Toy Story 3 and 4 since then. Up! is still one of my favorites though. 😁