Review: Turning Red


Amelia Barnum, Reporter

Turning Red is the newest Pixar film to hit Disney Plus this March. This delightful family comedy stars Mei Lee, a young girl, and obedient daughter. Along with the challenges of living with her overbearing mother, she discovers she can turn into a giant red panda when her emotions get out of hand. With such a cute trailer, it was surprising that the film received backlash before hitting the platform. Upon release, Turning Red got mixed reviews. Certainly a different movie from Pixar’s usual lineup, Turing Red marvels in relatable comedy and lively animation.

First of all, Turning Red’s animation is cute and pleasing. The style of the film, especially the character designs, deserves no hate. It’s baffling that the characters’ designs were criticized when trailers were first released, mainly since the round bubbly designs reflect those of the film Luca, which came out a year earlier. The animation captures the tones of the film perfectly and even switches styles to reflect cringy and embarrassing moments.

Secondly, the film’s metaphor of teenage puberty normalizes what so many young girls are experiencing. However, Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend’s managing director, states, “By rooting ‘Turning Red’ very specifically in the Asian community of Toronto, the film legitimately feels like it was made for Domee Shi’s friends and immediate family members. Which is fine — but also, a tad limiting in its scope”. This comment feels misplaced as so much of what the main character, Mei Lee, goes through is universal. Its depiction of periods feels like a breath of fresh air because it captures the relatability of the situation. In addition, it’s so comforting that a movie normalizes something that many girls are embarrassed by. 

However, no review is complete without some bitter judgments. One issue with the film is the side characters, especially the mother. The mother’s actions in the movie, while hilarious and frustrating, don’t exactly make her likable. When she goes too far, that loses some sympathy for the character. On top of the mother character, some of the newer characters in the movie appear too late, such as the grandmother and the aunties. Unlike Disney’s Encanto, which was able to balance a multitude of characters, the side characters in Turning Red come in too late and become forgettable. In addition to character screen time, the movie felt too short. This could be due to its fast pacing, but it felt like some emotional weight was lost in the third act. However, it could’ve been fixed with perhaps a few more scenes of Mei Lee and her mother talking. 

All in all, this movie is simply refreshing. It’s great to see Pixar broadening its film scope by including new directors and animators. This film drips with passion from its director, Domee Shi. Turning Red is truly a delight.