Film Review – Turning Red (2022)

Title – Turning Red (2022) 

Director – Domee Shi (feature debut) 

Cast – (Voices of) Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park

Plot – Teenager Mei Lee (Chiang) finds her life in Toronto becoming more complicated when she begins to turn into a giant red panda when her emotions get a hold of her. 

“My Panda, my choice” 

Review by Eddie on 18/03/2022

It pains me to say it while feeling sacrilegious at the same time but it now appears there’s reason to worry that the once untouchable Pixar animation studios has lost its magic spark. 

Looking over their last four mainstream releases (with their latest Turning Red skipping cinemas in favour of attracting sign-ups to the Disney+ streaming service), Onward, Soul, Luca and now this film, there’s debate’s to be had that only Soul is the one real genuinely great entry from a company that use to go hand in hand with greatness, with Domee Shi’s high reaching feature debut one that wants to offer grand and even previously taboo examinations of childhood turning into adulthood/teenhood but becomes a film that fails to create real lasting impacts around a familiar feeling and often flat offering that will likely be quickly forgotten about. 

Set in the picturesque surrounds of Toronto, with the city playing an important role in the story much like Mexico did in Coco and New York in Soul, Turning Red is a colorful and fast paced ride but as we follow young teenager Mei Lee through a story navigating the tricky new world of becoming a teen and also a giant red panda, all the while trying to gain entry into a boy band concert that is scheduled for her hometown, we quickly begin to realize that while Turning Red may be impactful and resonate to certain target markets, there’s not a lot on offer here that would make you go in to bat for the film when someone raises their hand around questioning how good it actually is. 

Far from as witty or endearingly humorous as the best of Pixar’s past works, lacking magic in the animation stakes (even if Mei’s Panda self has some impressively realized features) and failing to tug at the heartstrings despite desperate attempts throughout, Turning Red can only hide behind its culturally diverse narrative and puberty heavy plot that is not often found in such films for so long, as its collection of so-so characters and half-baked story is what remains prevalent through a majority of Shi’s feature. 

Pixar finds itself at a time in its history where its starting to feel like the naturally born stories and heavy hitting nature of many of its most emotionally impactful films are now being forced on us more, perhaps under guidance of the Disney money making wheel that wishes for Pixar for go all out in delivering diverse and topical issues, with the only hope we have of returning to highs of old coming naturally from the heart with story and characters we care about first and headline issues later. 

Final Say –

Sure to be beloved by a select few, Turning Red is one of the most thinly appealing Pixar films yet with a lack of laughs, imagination and genuine sentimentality holding this coming of age tale back from being anything more than a minor distraction aimed squarely at older children. 

2 interrupted concerts out of 5  

12 responses to “Film Review – Turning Red (2022)

  1. An interesting perspective – I do see a pretty large divide though in opinions between cis-males vs cis-women and transgender people regarding this film. As a woman – let me tell you, the complete and utter awkwardness Mei displays – fits very well. I haven’t been a fan of a lot of the past few Pixar films – Onward was dull, I got nothing out of Soul and thought it was trying too hard…I thought Luca was cute. Not amazing – but no The Good Dino bad. I loved Turning Red, partially because it didn’t feel like a Pixar film and I appreciated that it wasn’t trying be one so desperately (like Soul. I really didn’t like Soul)

    • It’s really going to be a divisive one this one! I personally didn’t feel much towards any of the characters which is unusual for me when it comes to a Pixar film but I am in no way thinking I am the target audience for this film either!
      I just didn’t find the story that special tbh either and found the film lacked a wit and charm I have found in so many other Pixar films.
      E

      • I think Turning Red was really trying not be like other Pixar films, and I actually appreciate that. The past few were trying too hard to be like other Pixar films and fell flat bcause they missed the charm. This felt like something completely different

  2. I actually enjoyed “Turning Red” a lot. But I could see your views on why you didn’t. A lot of people thought it was a bit too mature for kids, especially with the puberty elements.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. A lot of divisive opinions on this one. I would actually love Pixar to just go back and make a really fun film without a big weighty message, feel like their almost too bogged down making a big statement with each of their recent efforts.
      E

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