Bold, diverse, and relatable, Turning Red takes viewers on a magical coming-of-age journey
Starring (voices): Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, and James Hong
Directed by: Domee Shi
Tagline: Growing up is a beast.
Pixar tackles puberty head-on in the new animated adventure Turning Red, a coming-of-age drama that captures everything about the teen experience from changing bodies to raging hormones while serving as an amusing time capsule of the early 2000s.
The film centres on 13-year-old Meilin (Rosalie Chiang), a Chinese-Canadian girl with a gentle, supportive father (Orion Lee) and a loving but overbearing mother (Sandra Oh) who has turned helicopter parenting into an art. She and her group of very loyal friends – tomboy Miriam (Ava Morse), chill Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), and energetic Abby (Hyein Park) – are obsessed with the boyband 4*Town and desperate to see the pop group live.
But Mei’s adolescent life takes an unusual turn when she wakes up one morning and realizes she has transformed into a giant red panda! She subsequently discovers that any strong emotions turn her into the big fluffy animal while staying calm turns her back into a teen girl.
Family secrets are revealed and Mei is given the chance to part with her red panda spirit. She must, in the meantime, not only learn how to tame the beast but also raise money for 4*Town concert tickets and somehow convince her strict (and understandably concerned) mother to let her attend the event (which, as any teen girl in love with a boyband will tell you, is a matter of utmost importance).
Things obviously don’t go quite according to Mei’s plan. Friendships are tested, the mother-daughter bond is examined, pandemonium is unleashed. But lessons about self-acceptance are ultimately learned, for this is a Pixar movie, so yeah, obviously.
Turning Red swings from on-the-nose to endearing to being both at the same time from one moment to the next. But the film never ceases to be entertaining, charming you consistently with its energy and warmth.
Chinese-Canadian animator Domee Shi – the first solo female director to helm a Pixar film – brings unique cultural elements to this adventure, the diversity of her characters adding more flavour to her tale of teenage awkwardness. The voice cast is serviceable, if not entirely exceptional. And Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s 4*Town songs are fittingly rooted in early ‘00s nostalgia.
All in all, it might not have the repeat value of Pixar’s most celebrated classics, but Turning Red offers entertainment while tackling issues like biological changes and crushes – if you don’t want to openly address puberty in your household, then this isn’t the movie for your family – and attempting to gently guide young girls through what can be a challenging time in their lives.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection