Review: Turning Red (2022)

IS THIS THE CUTEST FREAKING THING I’VE EVER SEEN? I THINK SO!

For the past week my Twitter and Instagram feeds have been positively overflowing with nothing but praise and reverence for Pixar’s latest release, Turning Red (2022). People are going wild! There’s just an overwhelming outpour of love and support for this movie and it’s not very hard to see why. Before watching I was hoping that Turning Red would manage to live up to the unimaginable hype. I wanted to be in on the love! I’m happy to report that not only does Turning Red prove itself to be a genuine delight through and through, but it surpasses all that anyone has said about it. This movie was EVERYTHING!

Credit: imdb.com / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Written and directed by Domee Shi, Turning Red tells the story of Meilin, a 13-year-old Chinese girl growing up in Toronto. One day she wakes up to discover that when she gets over excited, she magically transforms into a giant red panda. While she struggles to understand this new change in her life, Meilin also works with her best friends to raise enough money to see their favourite boy band in concert.

First of all, I was sold on this movie when the teaser trailer first came out and I saw how adorable and fun as Hell it looked. But then when I realized that it was set in Toronto in the early 2000s, something I have NEVER seen in animation and can really relate to, my enjoyment factor went through the roof! I was so elated to see simple little things like, the Toronto Transit Commission, TimBits, Canadian currency and a Tamagotchi rip-off! It is so cool to see even a small part of something that I’m familiar with from my real life animated in a big budget movie! But beyond being able to strongly resonate with the Canadian and early 2000s connections, Turning Red secured itself as a hit with me within the first two minutes. How did I become so obsessed? With indescribably fantastic animation and a lead character that is impossible not to become an instant fan of. The excess levels of silliness, cuteness and lovably manic energy will endear anyone to this joyous movie, one that I’m sure will be loved by generations for years to come. For me, Turning Red is on the same level artistically and tonally as such movies as Tangled (2010) and The Lego Movie (2014), two movies that rank high on my list of favourite animated movies. By the way, check out my reviews for those movies, here and here. I would have loved to have been able to see this in theatres with a crowd of people who were falling in love with Shi’s work as as much as I was. 

I know we don’t really use the word “adorkable” anymore but Turning Red is the ultimate definition of the term. This movie is positively dripping with charm in every possible way, from the writing, to the direction, to the animation. Seriously, I had to pause the movie every 10 seconds to make detailed complementary notes because I didn’t want to miss a second of what was happening on screen. I couldn’t  take my eyes away because there is so much cuteness and subtle humour in the animation and direction. Turning Red is a feast for the eyes.  From a tonal and directorial standpoint, Turning Red feels like nothing Pixar has done before. Which is great! It feels like a welcome breathe of fresh air for a studio that has been kind of rehashing former ideas with releases like, Onward (2020) – check out my review, here – and Soul (2020). Keep it up, Pixar! Hire more unique, vibrant, young filmmakers like Shi! Who, by the way, is the first women to solo direct a Pixar movie. 

Not only is Turning Red totally original for Pixar (the animation is inspired by anime, something completely new for Pixar!) and unlike any of its past movies, but is different from any other animated movie I’ve seen. At least recently. I think some animated movies these days have gotten very serious lately and this is just pure unfiltered fun. Of course, there is a message about growing up and coming into your own, but Turning Red never sacrifices the fun and whimsy for the sake of beating us over the head with that message. I love that Pixar is taking a break from anything too intense and this is just a story about friends raising money to see a concert. I mean, obviously there is more to it when you look at it in terms of a young girl realizing that she’s coming into her own, but the stakes are obviously much lower than other Pixar movies. This movie serves you comedy, action, fantasy, as well as emotional beats AND the inclusion of “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child! I’m calling it now: Turning Red is easily the best animated feature of 2022. 

Filled with fantastic pacing, intensive world-building and a gorgeous story that will have you yearning for your pre-pubescent years and friends, I cannot recommend Turning Red strongly enough. It’s a beautiful representation of the wonder and beauty of Chinese culture, much like how Encanto (2021) was for Colombian culture. I sincerely hope that Turning Red receives as much fanfare and appreciation as Encanto because trust me, it’s more than deserving. Hello, it features Canadian and international treasure Sandra Oh in a hilariously entertaining role for crying out loud! Oh always understands the assignment and is without a doubt our greatest national resource.

THIS. MOVIE. IS. LIT. If you don’t take the time to check out Turning Red, than what are you doing with your life? Making poor choices, thats’s what. ATTENTION PIXAR: Moving forward give Shi as much money as she needs so that she can create any type of movie she wants. If you don’t allow this fabulous filmmaker to keep on telling stories as heartfelt, hilarious and adorable as this one, I’LL be the one turning red. Out of rage!

Have you seen Turning Red?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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