Turning Red (2022)

Pixar’s latest is a thinly veiled educational video on hitting puberty. Mei-mei is a happy, dedicated little girl who is fantastic at everything, an a-class student and surrounded by awesome friends. However, her commitment to her mother is about to come into question when she turns 13. She starts to see boys, starts to have those strange feelings, and, oh, turns into a giant Red Panda.

You see thanks to a protective ancient ancestor, every member of her family is ‘blessed’ upon puberty to become slave to their heightened emotions and turns into a huge, fluffy, adorable pile of red panda shaped cuteness.

This interferes with Mei-Mei’s current plan though; a boy band she and her friends are obsessing over are playing locally at the end of the month. And her mother wants her to undergo a ritual to rid her from the soul of her panda…on the very night her boys are playing on stage. Whats a girl to do?

The film is packed to the gunnels with the usual Pixar magic; cute characters for the really little ones (and a clever bit of marketing as a fluffy Panda is now exactly what i’m buying my friends kids for thier next birthdays), a teenage boy band very reflective of todays cute-and-quirky-and-wholesome bands that girls (and some boys) have been swooning over since the 90s, featuring songs by modern talent Billie Eilish. Oh and i challenge you not to laugh out loud every time Mr. Singh gets his doughnut / pudding.

The mysticism that us foolish westerners have come to expect in the wonderful, ancient and mysterious history of the East finds itself expertly depicted here in the spiritualism of the Red Panda … i want to say religion, but thats not the right word. And actually that brings me to something else, something subtle. And once you realise just how subtle it all is, its heartbreaking and yet hopeful; inclusionism. There is a solid place for everyone in this world. I’ll pick two obscure examples and ask yourself if you noticed. Did you spot Mei-Mei’s ambiguous best friend who could easily be androgenous? Or even better, the message that even young boys can be obsessed with boy bands too? The world created in this movie has no place for racism or sexism – the primary antagonists in this are the parents, and even then their ‘villainy’ is just a perception of thier love as seen by their kids.

I guess my only issue with the film is its startling ability to make me hate Mei’s mother. She is so over-bearing (and she has her reasons) but its a cringe-worthy moment every time she interferes unnecessarily. She is the james corden / olaf the fucking snowman / jonah hill / zach gallifrey-analyst character that somehow sees how to make the worst of a situation, and then… does it.

However, kudos to the filmmakers for the Ghostbusters-esque finale that somehow came out of nowhere AND was entirely expected both at the same time.

My winner of the story was Mei’s Dad. He was just the best.

Keep em coming, Pixar, you and Disney at large are still light years ahead of the competition in terms of animated movies. One day i might even forgive you for the Cars Trilogy. But not yet. 🙂

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