Sunday, March 13, 2022

Turning Red - Movie Review

The Movie: Turning Red

The Director: Domee Shi

The Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, James Hong

The Story: A 13-year-old girl named Mei Lee turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited.

The Review:
Representation matters. This should never be seen as a divisive statement. It emphasizes the need for inclusion because Hollywood, as one example, has been very lacking in that department and any sort of change has been minimal and incremental. The thing I love about this movie first and foremost is how it portrays a young girl's transition from adolescence into her teenage years in a very thoughtful and authentic way while also being a really fun fantasy story that is steeped in culture and history.

To a lot of people, what we see in this movie will be very new and different and that is a beautiful thing in so many ways. Young women, especially Asian women, will see a representation of themselves in a major studio production that I don't think has been available like this before, at least not in a mainstream format like Disney and Pixar, and that is also a beautiful thing and a very important thing. On top of how important of a movie this is in those respects, it's also a really fun story and the animation might be the cutest work Pixar has ever done.

This isn't a big sweeping, epic adventure although there is an historical backdrop of a much larger fantasy world that would be interesting to explore further. The classic coming of age element is firmly in place at the core of this movie so it does tread some familiar territory in that respect although the Asian family dynamics, the Toronto location, and the fantasy elements are all more than enough to keep it fresh and new for audiences.

My only real complaint about the movie is that it's going straight to Disney+ rather than getting any sort of theatrical release although, if demand warrants it, maybe that will change at some point. The animation, especially that of Mei's red panda form as seen below, is perfectly rendered and has a style that makes it feel like it can be targeted to a bit younger audience while still maintaining the type of thought provoking storytelling that Pixar is known for. 

This is director Domee Shi's first feature film although she has worked on many Pixar films in other roles while also directing the short film Bao, one of Pixar's best shorts, which explores Asian culture in a really fun way through food. It's nice to see a movie like this bring the total package of being a crowd pleasing, fun adventure that appeals to all ages while providing an opportunity for multiple demographics to be represented in such an authentic way. More of this type of filmmaking please!

The Verdict:
Turning Red is a super fun fantasy adventure that turns the tide on run of the mill coming of age stories by exploring culture and representation in a unique and authentic way. This movie should be on any family's must watch list and should soon become a classic in the Pixar catalog.

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