Review: Turning Red (2022)

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Turning Red (2022)

Directed by: Domee Shi | 100 minutes | animation, adventure | Original voice cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, Lori Tan Chinn, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Lillian Lim, James Hong, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O ‘Connell, Topher Ngo

‘Turning Red’ is the new animated film from Pixar, the studio to which we owe masterpieces such as ‘Toy Story’, ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Finding Nemo’. A new Pixar film therefore creates expectations that cannot always be fulfilled (think of: ‘The Good Dinosaur’, ‘Onward’ and the sequels to ‘Cars’). Perhaps the makers wanted to say a little too much in ‘Turning Red,’ but thanks to a refreshing new style and enough recognizable hilarity, it has become a successful coming-of-age film.

Domee Shi (she previously made the beautiful Pixar short ‘Bao’) is the first woman to direct a Pixar film solo and in the documentary ‘Embrace the Panda: Making Turning Red’ (also available on Disney+) we see how the rest of the the team consists mainly of women. The main character, 13-year-old Meilin Lee, who defies puberty with her friends, is in good hands.

Meilin is a teenage girl of Chinese descent, has three best friends with whom she swoons over boys, wants to make her parents proud by doing well in school, keeps her Tamagotchi alive and wants nothing more than to go to the boy band 4-Town concert. . In other words: Meilin is a perfectly normal teenage girl in 2002. Until one day she wakes up as a huge red panda. Her new appearance turns out to be an old family malady passed down from mother to daughter: when Meilin experiences strong emotions, she turns into a red panda, and when she has her emotions under control, she turns back into the normal teenage girl. Mother Ming (a wonderful role by Sandra Oh) reassures her daughter, because there is a ritual to crush the red panda. However… not for a month during the next red moon, so Meilin has to learn to control her panda, as best as you can as a hormonal teenager.

The red panda symbolizes puberty, which rears its head at the most hilarious moments. Physical changes (literally: hair growth and bad odors), physical clumsiness, puberty infatuation and unceremoniously going out of your way to your parents. You really don’t have to be a woman of Asian descent to identify with this teenager (as some film critics seem to think), because anyone who’s been 13 will have experienced similar situations. The shame and frustration you can feel as a teenager make it seem like the world is ending. But luckily this complicated period also brings a lot of beautiful things; you choose your own friends and you learn who you are, also apart from your parents. The grand finale of the film brings all this together and is even moving.

Besides Meilin and her mother, the other characters are less developed. The role of father Jin deserved more attention and Meilin’s three best friends are also a bit stuck on the surface. The script is also so full of all kinds of metaphors that the film loses your attention halfway through. Nevertheless, ‘Turning Red’ is an entertaining film, in which puberty is treated in a new, original way. But the refreshing style (we’ve never seen so many Asian and Manga influences in a Pixar film), the recognizable uneasiness of being a teenager and the nostalgic atmosphere from the 00s make up for a lot.

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