Pixar continues to crush it with Turning Red but it’s a shame that Disney sent it straight to Disney+ rather than give theatrical a chance.
Please make sure to watch until the end of the credits.
It’s 2002 and Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang) is your average 13-year-old teenager. She hangs out with her friends and is a massive fan of 4*Town. However, she’s also at the age where her emotions turn into a red panda. Every woman on her mother’s side turns into a panda at puberty. Mei’s mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), is an overprotective mother especially when it starts happening. Once it starts happening, Ming takes it to the next level even if it means embarrassing Mei at school. But once she starts poofing into a red panda, turning it off is not easy easy. It starts getting better once Mei learns how to calm her excitement. Mei and Bruce Banner could probably learn a thing or two from each other if they ever met. Between her red panda and his Hulk, it would be to both of their benefits.
What the film seeks to explore is what happens at Mei’s age. She’s at the age where she has to choose between being a good daughter to her parents and also being her true self. Ming and Mei are at a certain point in their relationship where change is inevitable. At some point, Ming must open up about the truth. Why do the women in her family turn into a red panda? Is there a place where Mei can stay true to herself and meet her parents in the middle? How far is too far before it’s too late? What about the whole red panda situation? How is this going to impact her relationships with family and friends let alone her duties at the ancestral family temple?
Both Disney and Pixar have been bringing the diversity of late. This film is certainly no exception. Pixar take us up north to Toronto’s Chinatown neighborhood as the film focuses on a Chinese-Canadian mother-daughter relationship that can only be seen in a feature film. Domee Shi took home the Oscar for her short film, Bao, after making audiences cry everywhere. This time around, Pixar gives her a bigger playground. Domee draws from her own life experiences. Some of the most absurd moments in the film also happened to the filmmaker in real life. Rosalie Chiang and Sandra Oh are amazing in what they bring to the film. Watching Turning Red with a giant watermark of my email address made me wish that I could see it on the big screen.
It was understandable that the studio sent Soul and Luca to Disney+. Given where we were with the pandemic, it made sense at the time. It’s been two years and we’re now on the third Pixar film to go straight to Disney+. I cannot even begin to imagine what morale must be like at Pixar’s offices in Emeryville. We’re in a changing world but these films should be seen on the big screen.
Musically speaking, Billie Eilish and FINNEAS contribute a few tunes. If they don’t win the Oscar for “No Time to Die,” they’ve got a few chances here with their three songs for 4*Town. If I have to guess, “Nobody Like U” will be the film’s Oscar submission–assuming the film is eligible because of the whole Disney+ thing. They’re able to capture the type of sound that was popular back in 2002. Meanwhile, Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy-winning composer Ludwig Göransson pens the score and incorporates the band’s music into it. Just as Mei and Ming clash with each other, the composer brings a similar tone to the styles featured within the film’s score. Think of the score as a mixtape!
In terms of Pixar, Turning Red is like nothing we’ve ever seen from the studio. Shi brings her own style here, which is a mixture of anime and the traditional Pixar look.
DIRECTOR: Domee Shi
SCREENWRITERS: Julia Cho and Domee Shi
CAST: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, Tristan Allerick Chen, Addie Chandler, Jordan Fisher, Grayson Villanueva, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo, Finneas O’Connell, James Hong, Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Sasha Roiz, Lily Sanfelippo
Disney+ will launch Turning Red on March 11, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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