Thursday, March 10, 2022

Turning Red

Disney's Turning Red is basically an animated remake of 1985's Teen Wolf recasting the main character as a 13 year-old girl who begins turning into a giant Red Panda whenever she gets too excited. Like Michael J. Fox's Scott Howard, the cause for the transformation is a mix of puberty and a family curse which Mei (Rosalie Chiang) only learns about after being freaked out by the horror of the unexplained change. And, as in Teen Wolf, Mei is told by her family to control and hide the Panda within but instead uses it to increase her popularity at school.

Turning Red is slow to get started, relying on cookie-cutter Asian stereotypes of the dutiful daughter breaking out of the mold. Thankfully, once the Red Panda shows up, things get a bit more interesting. However, if we are going to ding movies aimed at kids for dick and fart jokes, it's hard not to do the same here for the numerous cheap jokes the film gets away with around mensuration. 

I'll admit early on to also being distracted by the character design of Mei whose wide mouth and blocky teeth are so eerily similar to those of Wallace and Gromit, and so unlike its usual animation, that it's hard to believe they weren't purposefully borrowed as well. Seeing these designs used in this smoother Pixar animation style was odd to say the least.

If we're ranking Pixar films, Turning Red wouldn't be high on my list. That said, once we get the introduction of the Red Panda the film, like Mei, finally finds itself as it explores the pull of both family and friends on the Chinese-Canadian young woman going through an unexpected life change. Because of the female lead character, and much of the film being centered around the relationships of a group of girls, I would expect the film to do well  with that target audience. And it's there, and with the cute and goofy humor the Red Panda provides, where the film's true strength lies. As you would expect from Disney and Pixar, there are some nice lessons baked right into the story and we even get a cathartic climax (whose repercussions to the larger world are quickly swept under the rug). 

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Turning Red
  • IMDb: link

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