Domee Shi directs the 25th Pixar film, Turning Red. It debuts Friday, March 11th, 2022, with fellow newcomer Rosalie Chiang playing Meilin as the lead. She is a thirteen-year-old girl who begins to turn into a Red Panda when she feels extreme emotion. To her family, it’s made out to be a curse from their female ancestors, but to her three best friends Miriam (Ava Morse), Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), and Abby (Hyein Park), they see it as a part of who Meilin is. Twelve-time Emmy nominee Sandra Oh plays Meilin’s mother, Ming. She embodies the role of a controlling mother as she tries to make Meilin into a perfect person.
Turning Red is a film that moms and daughters should watch together, regardless of age or if the plot may not relate to them exactly. The love and embarrassment you feel from both Meilin and Ming will be relatable to you in one way or another. Most importantly, it tackles many different and new ideas that you haven’t seen from Pixar. This is the first time the topic of menstruation has been in any Pixar– let alone any Disney movie. Most would assume the scenes talking about periods would be discreet. Nope. You will laugh out of discomfort and possibly nostalgia for when the topic of menstrual cycles became a subject amongst you and the parents.
Nevertheless, Turning Red is being risky for such a “taboo” topic, but as we progress in society, it’s becoming normal to discuss and confront sexuality. These are typical things that pre-teens should understand rather than figuring it out independently. The first step is to put it into films, so it’s deemed normal.
They also use the Red Panda as a symbol to rebel against your parents. During the puberty stages, there are so many different emotions one faces: happy, angry, sad, and embarrassed. With these heightened emotions, you are bound to feel different. Meilin must learn that these emotions do not control her, but they are something that she must either embrace or erase.
This film is silly, fun, entertaining, but very much realistic. I can remember the many times I went boy-crazy or relied on my friends for support rather than my family. It’s endearing to see Pixar becoming more grounded in their scriptwriting and keeping it fun for people to watch. Although a few different aspects could be confusing. It’s set in 2002 and in Canada. The year and the country it takes place in is unusual. However, it doesn’t take much away from the film.
As for the characters, Meilin goes through a typical character arc, but what makes her story so unique is the different variety of characters. Meilin’s three best friends are all girls. This surprisingly doesn’t happen too often in Pixar films. The girls have all very different personalities that fit well into the story. Miriam is Meilin’s closest friend and is the leader of the group. Priya has a soft low voice. At times it’s a bit unnerving, but her character is loving, and she has an old soul. Abby is crazy in the best way possible. Meilin is witty and highly dorky. The girls are the driving force of this film. You root for every misstep they take, and you want them to succeed in the movie. Meilin’s father, Jin (Orion Lee), stood out the most in this film. He’s a soft-spoken, well-mannered man who sees Meilin for who she is. He embraces her flaws and is a shoulder any kid would want to cry on. As for Ming, Meilin’s mother… There will be times when you will want to throw hands, and other times you will want to cry alongside Ming.
As Pixar begins to grow, diversity has become more accepting. Meilin is the first Asian character in a Pixar film, and this paves the way to new beginnings and more opportunities for people of color. Turning Red also includes culture through the temple that Meilin and her family maintain and shows her parents’ different types of food.
Score 4 out of 5
Overall the movie was fun to watch with some minor flaws. It starts a bit slow from there overused, breaking the fourth wall entry of the story. It’s more of a telling rather than showing the audience what goes about it in this world. The fourth wall narration disappears until the last act, slightly jarring the viewer. However, once Meilin begins her Red Panda rampage, the film takes off on a journey of discovery, friendship, and family. Family and honor are prominent subjects in the movie. It’s a subplot that has been done before; however, it feels different in this movie. You feel something for each character, including the grandma and the aunts that pay a visit to help Meilin in her journey. It shows a relatability of an overbearing family that only wants the best for you, but also the severe judgment pressure that family can place on their younger family members.
Turning Red a progressive film, but the idea of being progressive does not so saturate it. It will make you want to laugh, cry, and scream in your pillow for hours. I guess some of us do have little Red Panda’s inside.