Thursday Aug 11, 2022

Review of Turning Red

The best features Of Pixar animation, according to these reviews, play for a universal audience. We all imagined how our young toys were brought back to life during play time, fearing the shadows that lingered in our closets or under our beds. Exploring these topics in Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. Pixar animators and storytellers built comic and emotional adventures that virtually everyone could see and take relatable life lessons (some, depending on their upbringing, are more relatable than others).

In recent times, however, Pixar has handed its reign to new voices, giving them the freedom to share deeply personal, albeit less universal, stories. Films like Onward, Luca and now the studio’s Turning Red undoubtedly come from the heart. But they also risk alienating viewers who can’t make history, aside from the impressive animation that is Pixar’s trademark.

Also, seen from the birds’ point of view, Turning Red plays like Pixar’s version of Teen Wolf, with only a female protagonist who transforms into a Red Panda instead of a wolf. Full footage is taken directly from Michael J. Fox’s underrated comedy and translated here into Animation. The result is a mixture of familiar ideas and manic energy that exhausted me much more than amused me.

The target audience of Turning Red seems small and incredibly specific.
In Domee Shi’s Turning Red, 13-year-old Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang) does her best to reconcile school work, an overly caring mother (Sandra Oh), her social life and the frantic hormones she draws.Racy cartoons of the convenience store employee she has a crush on. Meilin meets the expected range of problems in adolescents. She is passion with a chewing gum band called 4 * Town, but her mother does not let her see her in concert.

She is a closet artist, although her mother tied her up for a more serious career path. And she blossoms to femininity… which, in Meilin’s family, is associated with his own problem.

Yes, turning red includes the awkwardness of a girl experiencing the onset of puberty, something unexpected in a Pixar feature (though welcome, for its seemingly honest portrayal). Meilin’s mother, for example, stands in a sequence in front of her daughter’s class and screams because she believes her daughter forgot to bring Pads. No doubt the female audience watching will cringe and sneer.

A subtler, more nuanced story about the effects of puberty on teenagers might have been preferred. Turning red, with a literal translation, can represent the color in which one transforms once.

But Shi doubles down on the symbolism by adding a mystical twist: due to a curse passed down by her family, Meilin learns that she now turns into a massive, fluffy Red Panda whenever her emotions increase (there’s that Teen Wolf twist). It literally turns red. And this hook of the story leads to all the tricks of the expected plot, from Meilin frantically hiding his Transformation to his selfish decision to use the Panda to gain popularity. Just like Teen Wolf.

During Turning Red, Domee Shi and co-writer Julia Cho make jokes and references that speak directly to teenage girls, whether it’s their connections to juicy pop songs or their heated desire for older teens. Undoubtedly, Turning Red is the hottest Movie in Pixar history that parents will definitely surprise. I recognized The humor in the Film, but related to none of this. By rooting Turning Red in Toronto’s Asian community, the Film rightfully feels like it was made for Domee Shi’s friends and immediate family members. Which is good… but also a little restrictive in its scope.

Trina A. Truitt

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