Every person I have met adores at least one film made by the creative minds at Pixar; from the Toy Story movies to the dazzlingly beautiful Coco, the studio has made movies for everyone to enjoy and love. The studios’ past two movies (the incredible Soul and the sweet, light-hearted Luca) have released straight-to-Disney+ and so has their latest original movie, Turning Red, before hopefully making their triumphant return to cinemas this summer with the Toy Story Spinoff – Lightyear. However, this movie may be more divisive than you might think.
Pixar’s twenty-fifth feature film, Turning Red, is directed by Domee Shi and follows Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing, mother, Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter – an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which is all the time), she “poofs” into a giant red panda!
I am going to be honest – I am conflicted on this film and I have been since watching it. Like all Pixar movies, the animation is simply spectacular; filled with vibrant backdrops and people that do look incredibly realistic. Since the movie is set in Toronto, there are many great sequences showing the downtown area in an animated format that many Canadians will recognise. The giant panda is also deliberately designed to look adorable and have viewers going “awww” on multiple occasions.
The music is also very catchy. With a few songs written by pop star sensation Billie Eilish and her brother, Finneas, there are many tracks throughout the film that are played repeatedly which, I have to admit, are quite catchy. The kids in the film are obsessed with the band 4*Town so the duo had to come up with some songs that are very hummable.
However, that’s sadly where my positives end for Turning Red because I was thoroughly disappointed by this film. The premise is undoubtedly one that won’t sit well with a lot of people (especially parents of younger children), and while that wasn’t a problem for me, it was the tone that I could not gel with. It’s so hyper-active, chaotic and told through the eyes of a thirteen year old fan girl, that I could never get into it. It’s a tricky one to talk about but it was so ‘out there’ that I can see many people feeling the same way as me. It won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure.
Also, the way the movie veers so far beyond disbelief at one point that it certainly will lose the attention of some audience members. It’s a film about a mythical panda but there is a part where the movie becomes overkill and Turning Red does reach that point in the third act.
I hate to say it but Turning Red was Pixar’s first dud in quite some time. I can see it connecting with many but it sadly left me cold. Its chaotic tone feels messy and the third act truly lost me. The animation is spectacular (to nobody’s surprise, it’s Pixar) but that wasn’t enough for me to love it like many definitely will.
Turning Red is premiering exclusively on Disney+ on March 11th, 2022