"It’s a deeply personal story, filled with quirky characters and relatable mishaps."
TURNING RED (2022)
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"A 13-year-old girl named Meilin turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited."
OUR [TO THE POINT] REVIEW:
In recent years, there has been a plethora of Animated stories about self-discovery and familial bonds. Encanto, Spider-verse, The Mitchells vs the Machines, Onward, and Moana are just a few of the films that come to mind. This year, Turning Red joins the ranks of these coming-of-age films. And like all these films before, it blew me away.
Turning Red is the story of Meilin, an Asian Canadian teen whose entire life has been devoted to pleasing the people around her. She gets straight A’s and spends her free time with her mother and father. But when she turns 13, some strange things start happening to her, as she starts to think about boys, begins to smell, and turns into a big red panda when overly excited. If this film sounds chaotic, it’s because it is… in the best way possible. It’s a film that feels like a spiritual sibling to The Mitchells vs The Machines because, like that film, it taps into Gen X comedy superbly well. It’s loud, rambunctious, and not afraid to get real. The all-female writing team of Domee Shi, Julia Cho, and Sarah Streicher shine bright as the full moon, allowing the film to be both suitable for kids and a reflection of being a teenage girl. It’s not afraid to reference pads, deodorant, or the way feelings work. And in a culture dominated by stoic young female characters, it’s a fantastic change in the cinematic landscape.
That’s not to say that the entire film is about puberty, boys, or even rebellion. Because while those elements are present, Domee Shi’s direction keeps this film centred on the relationships Meilin has with others. Whether it’s her over-protective helicopter mother, Ming, or her best friends Miriam, Abby, and Priya, we are constantly refocusing on how Meilin tries to be the best for everyone around her. Turning Red proves itself not to be a film about rejecting your upbringing, but rather as a film about the boundaries we need to grow as individuals. And that message comes through clear as day thanks to the wonderful vocal performances filling this film. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Priya) and Hyein Park (Abby) have some of the best comedic performances in an animated film for what my money is worth. Ava Morse (Miriam) glues this group together, thanks to a rambunctious yet extremely caring performance. And Rosalie Chiang is terrific in the role of Meilin, bringing in every emotion under the sun for the performance. But for all my money’s worth, it’s the performance of Sandra Oh (Ming) that carries this film’s core themes. Sandra Oh plays a terrific helicopter parent, thanks to the emotionally withdrawn performance. Each line is delivered with care, but in a way that makes you question how genuine it is. It’s fundamental to the story, and a different line to walk. But Sandra Oh makes it look easy.
Along with the dialogue, Turning Red may be one of the best-sounding Pixar films in the past few years. Sound Designer Ren Klyce gives each scene an extra layer of emotion, whether it be anxiety, peace, excitement, or adventure. And when Ludwig Goransson’s score is weaved in, Turning Red can fully deliver Pixar’s signature waterworks scenes, whether those be tears or slobber due to the spectacular food animation. It may not be a film about cooking, but the Asian-Canadian culture sinks in through the usage of food and sayings. It’s captivating to watch and enriches the soul. Every element of Turning Red feels alive, from the temple to the school bathrooms. It’s a film that is gorgeously rendered, and populated, with real people.
At the end of the day, this may just be the most “non-Pixar” Pixar movie. It’s the most self-aware, full of the loudest character design, and much more wandering than other films in Pixar’s bucket. If Luca felt like a love letter to Studio Ghibli, then Turning Red is a Studio Ghibli film. It’s a film that wanders with purpose, and while that may be off-putting to some, I think it’s some of the best work to come out of Pixar, and worth a watch as it is on Disney+ for all. There is nothing else quite like Turning Red. It’s a deeply personal story, filled with quirky characters and relatable mishaps. And if that doesn’t charm your heart, I don’t know what will.