Turning Red – Film Review

Are you feeling nostalgic? Do you miss the vibes of the late 90s and early 2000s? Do you remember the joys of fangirling over boy bands, your favourite member, and their flawless harmonies? Do you recall that proud accomplished feeling of collecting music CDs, or even taking care of your beloved Tamagotchi? Well look no further, Turning Red is exactly what you have been waiting for.

Produced by Pixar Animation Studios, distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, directed by Domee Shi, and written by both Domee Shi and Julie Cho, Turning Red is a nostalgia fuelled Asian-infused coming-of-age animated comedy fantasy, and it’s also so much fun!

Set in Toronto in the early 2000s, the film follows a young Chinese-Canadian ambitious, anxious and feisty high-school girl Meilin “Mei” Lee, as she struggles with her identity, priorities, self-confidence, her relationship with her mother, and her desire to see her favourite band live, all while trying to manage her ability of randomly turning into a giant red panda.

The story of Turning Red is solid. With themes of change, acceptance, familial love, self-love, and friendship, Turning Red is exciting, wholesome, extremely relatable, and flawless. The visuals are stunning, and I honestly appreciated the respectful Asian representation. The voice acting talents in Turning Red are also superb consisting of Sandra Oh as Ming, Mei’s domineering yet intensely loving mother, Mei’s equally awkward friends Miriam, Priya, and Abby, voiced by the young talents of Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Hyein Park, respectively. And finally, Rosalie Chiang who is a natural as Meilin ‘Mei’. She’s so fantastic, it’s hard to believe this is her first voice-acting role and I’m sure it won’t be her last.  

If the stunning visuals, clever storyline, and the voice acting talents of Turning Red aren’t enough to pull you in completely, the music will get you over the finish line.

With music and lyrics by talented brother and sister creatives, Billie Eilish and Finneas, the boy band phenomenon is alive and well with Pixar’s first boy group, 4*Town, as well as the jokes about the band being called ‘4*Town’, despite having five members (K-Pop group Seventeen with your 13 band members, I’m looking at you). While the sibling musicians created three great songs for Turning Red, the song “Nobody But U” is the main hit from the fictional boy band, and if I didn’t know any better, I would have believed it was from the early 2000s.

I saw myself in Meilin. I too grew up in an Asian household in a Western society and watching Mei struggle with her relationship with her mum made me want to call mine. I recall that not so long ago, my own Asian mother did not understand my insatiable desire to go to concerts. I also loved collecting music CDs, still adore K-Pop, the Backstreet Boys (not even feeling remotely guilty about this), I and cut my teeth on video games with my own Tamagotchi (that is, until my brother yeeted it out of the window of a condominium building in Malaysia, but that’s another story). Watching Turning Red made me strangely feel that this film was created for me, and I believe I’ve finally found my ultimate favourite Pixar film.

Even if you don’t necessarily relate to all that Turning Red contains, it is still a severely wonderful, animated feature that I cannot fault, and I highly recommend a viewing of this film to everyone. I actually am counting down the days until I can watch it again.

There’s so much to love about Turning Red – the 100-minute animated feature is an exciting nostalgia trip full of colour, magic, heart, a super cute giant red panda, and catchy as hell tunes. What more could you want?

Turning Red will be exclusively available on Disney+ from March 11th.

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