Movie Review: Turning Red

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via Trusted Reviews

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Set in Toronto in 2002, Turning Red is the perfect mix of family and friends, teenage adolescence, and red pandas. Directed by Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi, who also directed the Oscar Winning short Bao, not only is this animation hilarious and cute, but it is also able to address topics like puberty and high parental expectations in a light-hearted way. 

The movie starts off with Mei’s own introduction to her life. Meilin is a smart student who loves her family and friends. She is happy and freshly unashamed of who she is and what she likes. As Mei walks into school, she sees her friends Miriam, Priya, and Abby. Even with all their different personalities, Miriam being fun and caring, Priya mellow and not easily phased by anything, and Abby, who’s a great mix of chaotic and loving, they make the perfect friend group. The one thing that they all have in common is their love for the boy band 4*Town. Overall, Meilin leads a normal life as a pre-teen middle school girl. Mei’s friends care for her, and when Mei can’t hang out with them after school because she has to help her mom clean their temple, they all know that Mei should take more time for herself. 

Her family’s temple worships their ancestor, Sun Yee, and red panda spirits that helped Sun Yee during the times of war. Mei’s life takes an odd turn after a dream of a red panda spirit entering her. She wakes up as the animal she had seen in her dream and starts to freak out. Her panicking causes quite a disruption in their house due to her new, larger body breaking and smashing almost everything. Mei’s mom thinks that she has just gotten her first period and doesn’t know about the real changes that have occurred. After Mei realizes that some of her panda features go away when she calms down, she is able to change back into her human body. At school, Mei sees her mom outside the window spying on her, and once she gets caught, she yells to Mei that she forgot her pads in front of the whole class. This causes her calm state to dissipate, and she runs around the city in panda form, trying to find a way to hide, which isn’t that easy, so she ends up back at her home.

When Mei’s mom finds her back at the house, she explains to her that the ability to be able to transform into a red panda actually came from their ancestor, Sun Yee. During times of war, Sun Yee had asked the gods to give her the ability to change into a red panda, and that ability was passed on maternally. The only way for Mei to seal her spirit away is to have a ritual that would only work under a red moon. Mei starts learning how to control her emotions more for the time being, but her friends still end up finding out by checking up on her after her absence at school.

Her friends tell her about a 4*Town concert that’s happening in their city, and they come up with a plan to use her new ability to make money for the concert tickets that cost $200 each. Since all of the kids from their school think that her panda is both cool and adorable, they sell photos with the panda, merchandise, and many other things. The day of the concert is coming quickly, and they only have the money for three people. Tyler, a classmate that Mei doesn’t get along with that well, says that he would give her $200 if she came to his birthday party. She agrees, but at the party, they find out that they got the date wrong for the concert. They had looked at the wrong city on the flyer they had, and it turned out that the day of the concert was the same day that Mei’s ritual would take place. Tyler starts to get impatient over Mei’s small break with her friends and starts mocking her. Mei is angered by this and attacks him. Due to her panda form being much stronger than Tyler, he starts crying and begging for her to stop. Once Mei realized what she’d done, it was too late. Mei’s mom picked her up from the party and was under the influence that Mei’s friends forced her to do this. 

On the day of the concert, her friends go without her. While Mei is getting ready for the ritual, she starts becoming more hesitant about whether or not she wants to seal her red panda away. She considers it a part of her, and midway through the ritual, she decides to opt-out. She starts running away to the concert, but her mom is angered by this. Her mom unleashes her own red panda form and starts to chase after her. Mei makes it to the concert and apologizes to her friends for throwing them under the bus, blissfully unaware of her mom, who was now bigger than the concert stadium, making her way there. 

As all of the other people attending the concert evacuate once they see the giant animal, Mei starts to distract her mom while her family starts to prepare the ritual for her that would turn her back into a human. Once her mom is turned back, Mei decides that the panda is a part of her that she shouldn’t separate from.

This movie definitely had a great plot and went into topics that Pixar movies don’t usually talk about, such as periods. The movie had very unique characters that made it a great film to watch with family and friends.