Review: Turning Red

Pixars new movie Turning Red released on Disney+ on March 11.

Media by Disney

Pixar’s new movie “Turning Red” released on Disney+ on March 11.

Sometimes I find a movie that reminds me of hot chocolate on a cold day or a warm fire on a rainy day. Turning Red, an animated film on Disney+, directed by Domee Shi felt like that.

“Turning Red” follows a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian girl named Mei, voiced by Rosalie Chiang, who has gained a newfound ability to turn into a giant red panda every time she experiences a strong emotion. On top of that, Mei is navigating her teenage life with her slightly controlling parents and friends.

What I found to be the biggest downside of the film is the plot. While it is definitely not bad, I did not find it as engaging as I expected it to be. It was hard to immerse myself in the movie at the beginning and really started to engage with the plot near the 25 percent mark.

However, the movie more than makes up for it with its characters. Each character, especially the kids, are vivid and have distinct personalities. Chiang does an extraordinary job at voicing the character as Mei’s upbeat and bright voice adds so much to her bubbly personality. 

While I believe Mei’s friends needed more screen time so we could get to know them better, their relationship with Mei was easily my favorite part of the movie. It was so refreshing to watch a movie that had little to no romance, as it instead focused on friendships and familial relationships, with Mei’s relationship with her friends shining the most. 

Miriam, voiced by Ava Morose, is my favorite side character and her relationship with Mei was one of the best in the movie. It was stronger than Mei and her mother because of the ease with how Miriam and Mei interact. But Mei’s mom, voiced by Sandra Oh, is still an amazing character with a strong arc throughout the movie.

The characters didn’t just have vibrant personalities, their clothing and the animation were beautiful. With the movie being set in the 2000s, the clothing is bright and unique to each character. Abby, one of Mei’s friends, has one of my favorite outfits with purple flower overalls. The animation has so much personality and even if I wasn’t as interested in the plot, watching the characters themselves was an enjoyable experience. 

The plot did go into a slightly more interesting direction at the end, but if it wasn’t supported by the brilliant characters, it would have seemed average. I couldn’t find myself caring about what was going to happen next nearly as much as I cared about the next time Mei and her friends interacted. However, it was still a good idea that did flow well throughout.

One big criticism I saw on the internet before seeing “Turning Red” were the complaints about how we were getting another movie with a person of color (POC) character that doesn’t stay human throughout the entire movie. While I do agree that we need more movies where POC stays human throughout the movie, I could tell the creators of Turning Red were actively trying with their diversity. The director, writer, and several of the voice actors, including Mei, were POC, specifically Asian women.

It did not feel like the movie was trying to cheap out by making a lot of the side characters white to make up for the fact that Mei was Asian. Two out of three of Mei’s friends were POC and there were a multitude of side characters that were POC. It made me so happy to see this kind of representation on TV in a mainstream movie. 

The plot in Turning Red was one I found to be just average, but the movie was easily made better by its characters. I’m itching for a sequel just so I can see Mei, her friends and her family interact more. I give this movie a 8/10 as it is a perfect movie for a lazy day in bed.