Pixar’s latest release, “Turning Red,” is a hilariously accurate coming-of-age movie that doesn’t shy away from some of the messier aspects of growing up. The movie follows Mei Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl, as she navigates the craziness of school, boy bands, and living up to her mother’s expectations. Her life only gets more complicated when she wakes up one morning as a huge red panda.
“Turning Red” is exclusively streaming on Disney+ and is free with a subscription.
The film is 95% fresh according to Rotten Tomatoes, and is Pixar’s first feature film by an all-women leadership team. The director is Domee Shi, who also directed “Bao,” which you may recognize as the Pixar short that played before “Incredibles 2” in theaters. Rosalie Chiang, 16, from California, makes her debut in voice acting as Mei Lee. Sandra Oh, known for her roles in “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Killing Eve,” voices Mei’s mother Ming Lee. Also, the movie’s fictional boy band 4*TOWN has its music written by Billie Eilish and her brother, FINNEAS.
I absolutely loved this movie, all 107 minutes of it. First of all, the visuals are absolutely stunning. “Turning Red” has its own style that sets it apart from other Disney and Pixar films. It’s super expressive and even has some anime influence sprinkled in.
This film is also very relatable as someone who was a 13-year-old girl. I could totally see myself in Mei. There’s a scene near the beginning of the movie that involves Mei drawing her crush as an anime boy all over her math homework, and another scene where she shakes her butt at her mother as an act of rebellion, which I related to a little more than I’d like to admit. There were multiple moments in this movie that had me laughing hysterically thinking “I HAVE DONE THAT!” and those scenes were definitely included.
Although it’s not a huge plot point, “Turning Red” does bring up periods which I really appreciated. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a character in a kid’s movie talk about periods, let alone show a box of pads on screen. Showing them makes menstruation seem less like a terrible, horrible, completely disgusting thing that you should be ashamed of, which I really appreciated.
Also, 4*TOWN is actually pretty good. I definitely wasn’t expecting to come out of this movie unironically singing along to songs by a fictional boy band, but I have. “Nobody Like U” is 4*TOWN’s best song and I stand by that. And, if you are the type of person who listens to soundtracks, this one delivers! It’s scored by Ludwig Göransson, who has also worked on music for “The Mandalorian” and “Black Panther.” I’ve been listening to it, along with all the 4*TOWN songs, on repeat since the movie came out.
If you are interested in how this was made, “Embrace the Panda: Making Turning Red” is essential viewing after this movie. It’s a 48-minute documentary about the women behind the movie, their inspiration and their careers.
“Turning Red” is easily my favorite Pixar movie of the last five years. I give it two giant thumbs up for being the awkward teenager representation I didn’t know I needed.