November 20, 2022 – Pixar, a division of Disney, has a reputation for animated comedies that are funny, poignant and suitable for a wide audience. Pixar movies are often in the hunt for end-of-the-year awards, and “Turning Red” looks like a good bet this awards season.
The story is about Meilin “Mei” Lee a 13-year-old Asian Canadian girl who is trying to be popular, trying to adapt to puberty, trying to come to grips with her changing sexuality, trying to negotiate the culture gap between East and West, and trying to please her strict mother. She's got a lot on her plate, but seems to be dealing with it pretty well, until yet another, very different, very big complication suddenly rears its head, and arms, and legs.
Mei suddenly turns into a giant red panda one day, causing quite a scene at her school. She thinks her parents will be freaked out by this magical transformation, but it turns out they know all about it, and they knew this would happen. They just did not think it would happen this soon.
It turns out that the women in Mei's family have inherited the ability to transform into giant red pandas. The ability was originally obtained long ago to protect a village during war. Mei's mother, Ming Lee (voiced by Sandra Oh of “Sideways”) explains that she knows an ancient ritual that can contain Mei's panda spirit inside an object, but the ritual can only be performed during a red moon, and that is a month away.
Ming Lee proposes locking up her daughter until then, but Mei discovers she can supress her inner panda under the influence of her three best friends, Miriam Mendelsohn, Priya Mangal and Abby Park. Mei is able to convince her parents, Ming and her father Jin Lee, that it is safe to let her return to school.
Mei and her friends conspire to raise $800 so they can afford tickets to see the boy band 4★Town. They discover that other students at school will pay a lot of money to see Mei turn into a giant red panda, so Mei becomes the top fund raiser for their collective boy band fund.
Mei tries to keep the boy band fund secret from her parents, and other relatives who are coming to town to help with the magic ritual, but they find out and there is a big fight. Mei's mother becomes angry and so does her grandmother, Wu. Conflicts with Mei's friends and her family all come to a head during the red moon ritual and the 4★Town concert at the SkyDome, which witnesses an invasion of giant pandas.
The movie tells a story about a girl who is turning into a woman, and her mother and grandmother who seem to be trapped in their own generational struggle. While Mei's mother also felt trapped by the expectations of her own mother, she has unwittingly sprung the same kind of trap on her own daughter. Mei is tired of these stifling demands and she finally puts and end to cycle in a very dramatic way.
This is a very funny, whimsical and moving film in Pixar's best tradition. It rates an A.
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