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Turning Red (2022) Review

By   Mar 08, 2022 09:05 AM EST

Chiang gives Mei a cheery attitude that jumps out of the speakers and draws the viewer in.

The Asian culture is ripe with traditions.  From ceremonial tea to dim sum and origami, children from a very young age learn all about these traditions and more. Perhaps one of the most sacred traditions, almost a decree you might say, is to honor one's parents and ancestors. Children should always be dutiful and obey for failure to do so would bring shame on the whole family.  This is the way many Asian children are raised including Meilin "Mei" Lee (Rosalie Chiang in her feature film debut), a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her parents in Canada.  However, when she wakes up one day and everything has changed, she suddenly is no longer the obedient daughter she once was.

Mei is a growing girl, and her body is changing which is only natural. So, when she wakes up one morning and things seem a little "off" she isn't too concerned...until she looks in the mirror.  Staring back at her is one, large, red panda bear.  But it is also her.  Somehow, she changed overnight and is in a panic because she doesn't know what to do.  Her mother, thinking Mei's strange behavior is due to her first menstrual cycle, rushes to help but instead discovers Mei in her panda form and realizes they need to have a different kind of conversation.  

It is a shame Disney decided not to release Turning Red in movie theaters but premiered it on Disney+ streaming instead.  The team at Pixar Animation Studios did an incredible job creating the panda and, while watching the movie on a 65-inch UHD television with Dolby Atmos is impressive, I can only imagine what it would have looked like on the big screen.  The colors pop, the details are well done and thoughtful and the overall feel of the film is bright.

Chiang gives Mei a cheery attitude that jumps out of the speakers and draws the viewer in.  Her peppy and vivacious attitude is contagious, and she is bubbly without overdoing it.  The veteran actress Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) voices Mei's mother, Ming, and she does so with a stern demeanor that masks her own feelings of inadequacy.  Wai Ching Ho (Daredevil) rounds out the generational trio as Mei's grandmother and, based on her voice alone, she is not a woman I would want to meet in a dark alley.  The younger cast members, who play Mei's close-knit group of friends do a great job interpreting their character's lines and delivering them with the right inflection and tone.

Besides the animation, the soundtrack is mostly upbeat and fun, adding to the overall flavor of the film.  Song contributions from Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell add a modern edge to some of the music, which contradicts yet complements the traditional feel of some of the other songs.  This contrast is one of many underlying themes, along with finding one's own identity and embracing change, etc., peppered throughout the movie.  For younger audiences, the songs and the panda bear will be enough to keep them entertained while "tween" viewers, will probably see a little bit of themselves in Mei and most likely will relate to the character.

Turning Red starts off slow and takes a good thirty minutes to ramp up to speed but the red panda is adorable and I'm willing to bet there is a stuffed animal already in the works (If Build-a-Bear was smart, they would be offering a Mei red panda).  The movie also screams diversity and inclusion as the characters are from all different backgrounds and heritages.  

If you have little ones at home, or even better, younger kids and their preteen siblings I recommend watching it more than once.

Grade: B

Directed By:

MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 100 minutes
Distributed By: Walt Disney Pictures

For more information about Turning Red visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Allison Rose please click here.

Turning Red images are © Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


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