Review by Silas Lindenstein
Turning Red (2022)
PG ‧ Animated Coming Of Age Comedy ‧ 1 hour 40 Minutes
Written by Julia Cho and Domee Shi
Directed by Domee Shi
Voices of Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho and James Hong
(In their own words) Set in Toronto between 2002 and 2003, Turning Red centers around Meilin “Mei” Lee, a confident 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian who is torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. However, one morning, after she has a nightmare, she is horrified to discover that she has turned into a giant red panda, later learning that her ancestors have a shared history with the species. Whenever she gets too excited or stressed, she “poofs” into the red panda time and time again.
Let me say first of all that I did like the film. I actually think it’s a rather important film. It touches on changes teen girls have in real life that is addressed in a natural and non-ick factor way that a lot of other material treats it. That normalization is important for not just girls, but everyone. This is probably also the most diverse cast of any previous films. It’s not even set in the USA. There’s a lot of cool stuff about this film. My big problem is that I wish I liked it more.
The film seems to do nearly everything right about a film. It has a compelling story, the voice acting is great, it’s funny, etc. but I feel like I didn’t relate to the character enough. Then I worry that that is just built in misogyny not enjoying something fully because it was a story that wasn’t about me. Or maybe my expectations for Pixar films are just too high? This film was originally supposed to be released in theaters, but the Pandemic has been used as the reason it is not and instead releasing it for free on Disney+. Disney is releasing other big films in theaters, so either Disney doesn’t trust parents will bring their kids to the theater or they simply don’t have faith in the film that it will draw.
The film is fun. It’s a celebration of a girl ready to start her path toward adulthood. It’s about changes in a person that start to draw attention from your peers and how you deal with it in a healthy way.
It’s really hard not to enjoy a film about a girl suddenly becoming a Panda when she experiences too much emotion. It’s like a cute Incredible Hulk. And learning to control emotions is a recurring theme in a lot of art. The dangers of emotion can never be overexploited, but finally we are looking at it from a different point of view.
Three BEST things about the film
- Wonderful representation.
- Great original mythology.
- Very funny.
The WORST things about the Film
- Unclear consequences, like how do they know it would be bad to stay the Panda.
- Animosity between the grandma and mother seems unnecessary.
- Don’t hold back for anyone.
- We’ve all got a messy loud inner beast but we never let it out.
THE FINAL WORD
A fun story about change that is refreshingly different and captured through the lens of a teenage girl.
My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It.
I give Turning Red a Like It.
Available On Disney+ Streaming March 11th
When he’s not reviewing films or interviewing people for the Black & A Half podcast, Silas Lindenstein can be found in the greater metro Seattle, WA working as a real estate agent helping people buy and sell homes, or performing stand up comedy to fellow nerds. He has a wife and three children and desperately wants to learn to make the perfect homemade pizza.