TURNING RED – A Review by John Strange
No one provided me with a free copy of the Digital HD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.
Meilin “Mei” Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) is a 13-year-old over-achiever living in Toronto with her parents, who run a temple devoted to their (actually Mrs. Lee’s) ancestors. The family is very close, Mei comes home from school every day to help clean the temple and participates in the tours.
At school, Mei has three best friends who do everything together, including worshiping the boy band, 4*Town. In this coming-of-age story by writer/director Domee Shi, Mei’s development into adulthood takes a different direction than most girls her age due to a bargain that one of her ancestors back in ancient China made with her gods.
At the beginning of the red moon at the appropriate time in her life, Mei experiences her first…Red Panda change. The scene in the movie is fraught with terror on the little girl’s part due to her – panda. Her mother misunderstands and believes she is experiencing her first period with all of the awkward attempts to explain bodily changes and the need for “pads”. For men, this part can be much more uncomfortable than Mei’s real change.
The story of how this all began and how the women of the family line have handled it is well written and flows well. Mei’s independent streak and her experiences with the new Mei are also very well played in the film.
All of this leads up to a very exciting climax that helps Mei decide who and what she wants to be in her life while also repairing relationships that the family “situation” has disrupted.
I enjoyed this film. The family is excellent, their characters and attitudes are all spot-on. Mei’s gaggle of girlfriends is great, a veritable maelstrom of all that young girls can be! And I find that the girls against that one rally smarmy antagonistic boy were well played. The many homages to anime are subtle but well played.
For lovers of Billie Eilish, she and Finneas O’Connell wrote original songs for the film.
This film was made by a largely female crew by a first-time feature director. Pixar celebrated this crew with a 48-minute featurette called “Embrace the Panda: Making Turning Red”. Those of you who read my home release reviews know that the bonus extras are a big part of my love for them! This extra is a 5-star exercise in showcasing what went into making the animated feature.
This is a 5-star film in my book, but I wasn’t expecting any less from the director who brought us the Pixar short, Bao. The short showed me that Domee (and her crew) had the knack for giving us intimate feelings of love and family. Many of the crew from Bao also joined the director of this feature. And watch how often that handmade dumplings pop up in scenes.
Director: Domee Shi
Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Tristan Allerick Chen, Lori Tan Chinn, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Lillian Lim, James Hong, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O’Connell, Topher Ngo, Grayson Villanueva, Josh Levi, Sasha Roiz, Addison Chandler, Lily Sanfelippo,
MPAA Rating: PG (or thematic material, suggestive content, and language)
Selig Rating: 5 Stars
Runtime: 107 Min.
Trailer: TURNING RED Trailer
Release Date: 03/11/2022 on Disney+
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.