- Hamish Hart
Turning Red (2022) Review
PIXAR is back with their latest feature film; this time tackling the difficulties that come with growing up and the life-altering changes which affect your body. Although Disney and Pixar have both handled the subject of "growing up" differently, neither handles puberty in such an overt and effective manner.
Set Toronto, Canada in 2002, Turning Red follows the life of 13-year-old Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) as she struggles with a new-found family secret - being able to transform into a giant red panda whenever she get too excited. However, keeping this secret hidden proves to be more difficult then she could've imagined as her loving, over-protective mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), is never far away.
Turning Red has a high-octane energy to it that keeps the film at a steady pace, rarely slowing down or taking moments to step off the "pizazz pedal"; an undeniable mixed blessing if I'm being honest. Director and writer Domee Shi pours her heart and soul into this coming-of-age tale by introducing relatable situations and characters that any child can identify with, as well as utilising its 2002 setting with references to products of yesteryear such as tamagotchis to tell a clear, concise story which can relate to children of past and present.
This wouldn't be a true Disney/Pixar feature if it failed to tug at the heartstrings, and unsurprisingly, the director of 2018's emotional Oscar-winning short, Bao, uses that same emotion to enhance the sentimental moments which regularly transpire in Turning Red. Parents, children and friends will understand empathy throughout the film as each side is positively represented, with neither shown as being right or wrong; each side has their own faults in the difficult process of growing up as parents and children must understand where each side is coming from. The film excels in these compassionate moments, but when it comes to the comedy, the writing is either a gigantic hit or an even larger miss.
There are quite a number of hilarious moments scattered throughout Turning Red, but sadly, there are just as many misses which ultimately bring the film down just enough. The four leading friends all work off one another in tremendous ways, perfectly translating their real-life friendship into a fictional setting in order to create one-liners which are wonderful for the time period. However, the quadruple exude an unnatural amount of energy which rapidly travels past the point of cute into irritating; a tremendous shame as if the humour was handled with a little bit extra care and subtlety, we could be talking about not only one of Disney and Pixar's best, but one of the greatest animated features of all-time.
Turning Red may fail to perfectly balance humour and empathy, but while the film doesn't always have a consistent harmony, it more than makes up for it in passion. Director Shi understands that not every animated movie has to be a comedic romp, opting to focus on the message behind the movie rather than providing jokes that may or may not land. If you're looking for an animated feature that anyone can relate to, Turning Red is high up on my list of recommendations and one that even made me tear up - yes, even me.