‘Turning Red’ movie review: Pixar’s delightful ode to female adolescence

Filmmaker Domee Shi delivers a perfect coming-of-age film, giving all the confusion and emotion of puberty a fun form in the giant red panda

March 15, 2022 04:33 pm | Updated 04:33 pm IST

A still from ‘Turning Red’

A still from ‘Turning Red’

A beautifully-animated, funny, warm-hearted, inclusive movie, Turning Red is the first Pixar film to be directed by a woman, (Domee Shi, who directed the Oscar-winning short, Bao makes her full-length feature debut). It is also the first to be set in Canada. In 2002 Toronto, Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) is a 13-year-old Canadian Chinese teen who hangs out with her friends, Miriam (Ava Morse), Abby (Hyein Park) and Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). Apart from doing very well at school, Meilin helps her overprotective mum, Ming (Sandra Oh), in the family temple.   

Meilin discovers to her horror that she suddenly transforms into a giant red panda. When Meilin hides her panda self from her mum and dad (Orion Lee), they first think it is Meilin’s reaction to her first period. When Ming sees Meilin in her panda avatar after embarrassing her in school, she tells her daughter of the family’s mystical connection to the red panda. The family deity gave all the women in the family the power to transform into pandas to fight battles when they come of age.  

Turning Red
Director: Domee Shi  
Voice cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, James Hong  
Storyline: Thirteen-year-old Meilin has to come to terms with her inner and outer giant red panda 
Duration: 100 minutes

There is a ritual that is performed to lock the panda in a talisman. Apart from turning into a giant red panda, Meilin is a regular teenager with crushes and a passion for a boy band called 4Town. When the night of the 4Town concert clashes with the ritual, Meilin has to make a choice.    

Turning Red is a perfect coming-of-age film, giving all the confusion and emotion of puberty a fun form in the giant red panda. Mothers and daughters, and friends reconcile, while boy bands croon sweet melodies. The action sequences leading to the big concert/ritual are delightful and the voice cast is spot-on. The colours are bright and bouncy and the message is on the right side of subliminal.   

By setting the story in a specific time and space, Turning Red proves its universality and Shi has not slammed the door shut on a sequel.     

 Turning Red is presently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar 

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