Turning Red Review – Edgy and Endearingly Eccentric

Turning Red

Growing up can be a pain. You have to deal with a changing body and all of its side effects. It can be a weird experience. Yet, growing up can also allow you to discover who you are as a person. It’s a significant, life-changing time for any human being. It’s also why we’ve seen plenty of movies dealing with these kinds of situations before. From Teen Wolf to Carrie, we’ve seen Hollywood showcasing what it’s like to go through puberty through all genres. However, you’ve probably never seen a film quite like Pixar’s Turning Red before.

Turning Red follows Meilin Lee, a 13-year-old girl who does everything with precision and perfection. Unfortunately for her, she will soon discover that her family has an ancient curse. Once old enough, they will transform into a giant red panda. Not only does Mei have to deal with the chaos of adolescence and her overbearing mother, but she’ll now have to deal with it without turning into a red panda. 

Sure, the premise of Turning Red is reminiscent of 1985’s Teen Wolf, but we’ve never seen Hollywood depict womanhood in this fashion before. In her directorial debut, Domee Shi (Bao) unapologetically illustrates female growing pains and all of the awkwardness that comes with it. Not to mention, Turning Red is easily one of Pixar’s edgiest films to date—at least for a Disney film aimed at kids. One of the central themes is the sexual awakening Mei Mei goes through once she hits puberty. As a result, there are many instances where the movie is unashamed and not afraid of showing its horniness. Of course, you’re going to have to get your brain out of the gutter. After all, this is still a Disney film.

Turning Red is a thoughtful movie about growing up that is also super funny and endearingly eccentric in the most entertaining way possible.

Now, one would think that Mei’s panda problem is the focus here, but it’s not. At its core, Turning Red has plenty of enjoyable themes that’ll appeal to both parents and children. The youngsters will find a charming message about accepting oneself and all of our quirks, while parents will relate to the struggles of letting our children go. Not to mention, the movie explores it all through a beautifully realized mother-daughter relationship. Turning Red swears that even the most overbearing parent comes from a place of love. In turn, parents need to let their angsty teens find their way in life. 

However, as a whole, Turning Red is a bit of a messy flick. Not only does the movie deal with a mother-daughter relationship and puberty, but the film is also about sexual awakening, family curses, and (of course) boy bands. Not to mention, Turning Red is tonally all over the place as well. Then again, we should remember that growing up was also messy and all over the place. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, the film takes a bit of time to find itself, just like our protagonist Mei Mei. 

As for the animation, it’s an eclectic mix of East and West. You’ll find several references to Japanese kawaii anime, kaijus, and Chinese folklore. At the same time, you may even notice that the character designs are reminiscent of Aardman Animation as well. There’s just so much personality and style in Turning Red‘s animation. One also can’t help but talk about the film’s music. The original songs created by Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish are absolute fire, and they all deserve to be the pantheon of great Disney pop songs like “I2I” (A Goofy Movie) and “True to Your Heart” (Mulan).

Overall, Turning Red is a thoughtful movie about growing up that is also super funny and endearingly eccentric in the most entertaining way possible. Both Domee Shi and Julia Cho have (seemingly) taken their life story and used animation to deliver an edgy and unique take on womanhood. On the other hand, the film might not appeal to everyone. After all, the target demographic is females and families. Males might not relate to most of the film, and that’s okay. Regardless, I still immensely enjoyed the movie because Turning Red has everything you want in an animated film.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Turning Red launches exclusively on Disney+ on March 11th.

Facebook Comments