If I'm Being Honest

There are no shortages of coming-of  stories in the old times as time and will be relevant because we all got through the angst of becoming a teenager and watching the people we love most, our parents, turn into our mortal enemy as we hurdle towards adulthood. “Turning Red” as unique take on the tale as old as time while adding some cultural perspective outside of the Western norms.

“Turning Red” is a highly anticipated Pixar film that just may spark the interest of many different viewers, no matter where you might be on your life journey, this movie may have something for you. The film is based on the idea that parents just don’t understand while mixing some elements of learning to be yourself and facing your demons. There also happens to be a kaiju fight and a giant red panda running around so how do all these elements come together in this latest Pixar film? A quick review of Pixar’s. “Turning Red” might help you out if the movie is worth your time.

The Plot

The movie is about a 13-year old Chinese Canadian girl, named Mei, who has an overbearing mother. Mei is a confident dorkey overachiever who s also her mother’s dutiful daughter. Mei gets grades in school and helps her mom run their family temple: she’s perfect in her mother’s eyes but Mei is growing up. The boy band “4 Town”. Mei suddenly wakes up find that she had turned into a giant red panda. Mei tries to hide her new identity from here parents while she figures out what’s happening to her but it not long until her friends and family find out. Now all bets are off as Mei has to figure out how to come to accept who she really is without disappointing her mother.

Fun Facts

A Pixar film has a high-quality standard that I believe this movie’s animation was able to reach. Every time Mei poofs into a giant red panda it feels magical. As the movie progresses Mei gets more control of her ability to transform and never gets old watching her go back and forth between a giant red panda to a teenager in the blink of an eye.

Listen Closely, Boy Bands Were Cool

The voice acting was solid, led by Sandra Oh. Sandra Oh was able to give off an energy that could keep up with the kids. Listening to her as her tones changed depending on the mood felt authentic. Another noted vocal performance was the singing of the band “4 Town”. I’m not sure if the music will catch on be a hit outside of the film but while were watching, the music was enjoyable and even had a high point within the context of the story that was enjoyabe.

Hard Truth

“Turning Red” is another coming-of-age-story but does not do much different or add anything to the genre. This film quickly fall into the category of a “a teenager with a parent who does not understand”. sprinkled with a mystical gimmick to help make sure we all get that point of the story is trying to make.

In the case of “Turning Red”, there are so many points that the movie wants to touch on acceptance of others, accepting yourself, perception vs reality in the eyes of parents, and literally facing your demons are among the few life lessons. All the attempts to make a well-rounded film fall flat because the character are very surface and they only get to go so deep.

Only Scratched the Surface

Disney had made a real effort to create stories that show diversity within its storytelling. It is refreshing to see other cultures on-screen rather than typical Westernized way of living. “Turning Red” main character is of Asian descent, but I never felt any real connection to the characters from a cultural standpoint.

The story has a family that owns and runs a temple which seemed to signify the family is supposed to be steeped in culture but it never feels that way. Again, the surface idea of showing an Asian family making dumplings generic in comparison to film like Encanto or Moana that gives us very deep dives into the culture. “Turning Red” shows us a few things like the hanging lanterns, commonly seen hanging above their community’s marketplaces but nothing deeper. I left this movie with no sense of a deeper connection to the family or the culture of these characters.

This Felt Excessive

Mei’s mother Ming lee is an overbearing parent, but his version in uncomfortable, hte excessive nature of the relationship between mother and the daughter was cringe-worthy at times. The direction for Ming Lee could have been pulled back a touch and we would have gotten same point.

Bad Tropes Keep a Good Film Down

The film also makes a common choice of making the mother or woman “strong” while making the male character meek or the father meek, just for the sake of presenting a strong woman character. “Turning Red” leans heavily into the narrative and the movie is not better for it. We are space socially where it’s okay to present two strong parents. One parent does not have to be subservient to the other to the point of barely having to play in the context of the film. To add insult to the injury, as usual, the father, in the case, has the wisdom they needed to help prevent the issue from escalating, but no one cared to listen.

The Controversy About "Turning Red"

Young Mei Lee is going through a quite literal transformation is linked to something far more personal. The giant red panda could be a metaphor for a 13-year old going through the puberty of having her “period”.

Let's Not Turn Red Pandas into Something Terrible Please

Culturally is has been dediced that “we” should be far more sensitive in how we are speak about a woman’s cycle. Most importantly not reducing this time of the month to women grouchy, mean, and emotional but the movie implies the heavier the period, the harder it is to deal with woman or in the case of “Turning Red” the bigger the monster a woman becomes. Again, socially, it would seem that “we” would have moved away from the type of commentary, compounded by the fact this is written by a woman.

Truth Bomb

If I’m Being Honest, “Turning Red” gets a spark. There is enough here to like on a surface level but I found had a few problems. “Turning Red” has a lot of great life lessons that are part of the film, but they seem to miss mark. Disney has released so many animated films that have tremendous cultural impact and “Turning Red” does not seem to be on the level of ts contemporaries.

The chaos of adolescene coupled with an overbearing mother would hit home for a lot of people but narratively there is not much to hang on to in comparison to other Disney or Pixar films. I will say that if this movie does well enough it could benefit from a part or maybe a Disney show that would allow us to see Mei’s growth on her continued path to adulthood.

This last bit is Important!

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