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movie reviews
Turning Red

Turning Red

Pixar's coming-of-age story is now on Disney+, and we've watched it and have plenty of thoughts.

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Ever since the pandemic started around two years ago, the movie industry has had to adapt to people being unable or unwilling to visit local theatres to catch the latest films. For a lot of production companies, this has meant releasing movies day-and-date in cinemas and on streaming services, but for Disney and the famed animation company Pixar, the approach has mainly been to forsake theatrical launches in favour of sending new movies directly to Disney+. While this will be changing in the summer when Lightyear lands, the latest film, Turning Red, which released today, is seeing a straight streaming release again, and I've already watched it and have some thoughts.


For those who aren't familiar with Turning Red, this is an animated coming-of-age story, where a young girl, Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chung) is having to grasp the difficulties of continuing to be the perfect daughter, while also managing and coming to terms with her adolescence and all the challenges that poses. It isn't this simple however, as Mei Lee also has to deal with a family curse, which sees her change into a giant red panda whenever she experiences an overwhelming emotion. Needless to say, this all comes together to create a chaotic and symbolic story that aims to approach the more delicate nature of growing up.

And for the most part, this is what Turning Red revolves around. Mei Lee is a charismatic character that is caring, high-energy, and burdened with the enormous expectations of her mother, Ming (portrayed brilliantly by Sandra Oh). She has to be a top-student, a worker at the family business, a helper around the house, and on top of that, she has to find time for her friends and for herself. It's a relatable situation, one that you can emphasise with, and director Domee Shi (formerly known for the award-winning short Bao) and voice actor Chung do a fantastic job at presenting a character that is dealing with a very, very fine balancing act. But, then the red panda enters the scene, and chaos ensues. Mei Lee has to face an entirely new challenge, one that makes her question who she really is, and the state of her relationship with her own mother.

It's an emotional complex tale that somehow manages to transition effortlessly into a full-blown monster movie, all without forsaking its thoughtful and heavy beats, and even manages, in a traditional Pixar manner, to offset the gravity of even the deepest moments with light comedy and daft antics. And believe me, Turning Red really doesn't skimp on this. This is a Pixar production that aims to make you chuckle every few minutes with outright bizarre situations that are elevated by the fantastic performances of each cast member, and also the top-in-class animations and visuals that we have all come to expect from Pixar films.

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Turning Red

It should be noted however, that this is likely not a Pixar movie for everyone. As you can argue that 2020's Onward was largely tailored for a young male demographic, Turning Red is tailored for a young female demographic. That doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it if you don't fall into that sector of the population, but there are clearly areas and plot points that befit younger female viewers primarily - the fact that the 13-year-old Mei Lee and her friends are absolutely star-struck and infatuated by a young boy band is just an example.

With this being said, Turning Red is still a fabulous film. It's magnificently animated, thoroughly entertaining, hilarious and thoughtful, and once again proves that Pixar are still the gold standard when it comes to animated movies. It's also a stellar feature-film directorial debut by Domee Shi, who proved her excellence in short stories and has transitioned seamlessly into the more complex world of full-length movies. With Bao and now Turning Red to her name, I can't wait to see what story Shi will tell next.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
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Turning Red

Turning Red

MOVIE REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Pixar's coming-of-age story is now on Disney+, and we've watched it and have plenty of thoughts.

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