Pixar’s Turning Red Movie Review
Pixar’s latest animated feature, Turning Red, brings literal magic to a coming-of-age story, breathing new life into a familiar premise.
Pixar’s latest animated feature turn red, coming to Disney+, offers a heartfelt coming-of-age story with a magical twist. Much of the online discourse surrounding turn red focused on Disney’s decision to forego a theatrical release in favor of direct distribution through its premium streaming service. Whatever its distribution strategy, turn red stands as one of Pixar’s most energetic recent films. More than a mixture of teenage hijinks with a mythical metaphor, turn red is a joyful top-down thrill that will entertain audiences of all ages.
Set in Toronto in the early 2000s, middle schooler Mei Lee is torn between stepping out of the shadow of her overbearing mother Ming and embracing a freewheeling lifestyle with her friends. As Mei struggles with her sense of family duty and her desire to see a popular boy band ready to put on a lavish concert in town, she learns that the women in her family share a magical heritage of transforming into a huge red panda. whenever they experience extreme emotions. As Mei deals with this supernatural secret, the problems with her mother come to a head. Mei must choose whether to embrace tradition or follow her teenage dreams.
turn red lives and dies by its young characters, and thankfully the film’s cast is up to snuff. The quartet of instantly relatable friends, led by Rosalie Chiang’s Mei, play well as they experience the emotional roller coaster that is college, even before the magical stakes surface. The cast is anchored by Sandra Oh as Ming, who elevates what could have been a typically stern East Asian mother portrayed as a one-note antagonist. Instead, Ming is a nuanced role that brings a surprising amount of fun to the story while giving Mei her central conflict.
Directed and co-written by Domee Shi, turn red boasts a more expressive animation style, even with its human character design. This helps underscore the film’s more exuberant nature, drawing on a clear anime influence with immersive action steeped in everyday life. The red panda element and its thematic allusions help present a universal coming-of-age arc for Mei and for audiences of all ages. Where the film really excels is when it leans into its boy band lens, lending an evocative musical aesthetic to the proceedings. There are serious themes and arcs in turn red but the film is not a Pixar movie that will leave its viewers emotionally devastated. In place, turn red keep in mind how fun the basic premise is.
turn red is a film that takes what feels like a familiar story of culture clash against the backdrop of a coming-of-age story of self-discovery and breathes new life into it. With literal magic, turn red delves into the creative possibilities that come with the time period and the themes of the story. The red panda element of the story gives turn red its basic premise, but it’s the cast’s naturally buoyant energy that makes the film stand out from the rest.
Pixar has been in an unusual place for several years, both in terms of an exit strategy dating back to the 2020s Forward and continue with turn red. While it’s frustrating that the movie didn’t get a wide theatrical release, the film will hopefully find its streaming audience. turn red viewers will talk about it and sing along to boy band pop songs to celebrate how magical adolescence can be, even without a family curse.
Directed and co-written by Domee Shi, Turning Red will be available to stream March 11 on Disney+.
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