A movie about growing up, parental pressure, teen crushes, family heritage and friendships, Disney Pixar’s animated comedy Turning Red packs a lot into its 100 minute running time, and tops it off with a big dollop of fun and music that should appeal to both kids and grown-ups.
Thirteen-year-old Chinese-Canadian Meilin (Chiang) is a confident school girl torn between being a dutiful and studious daughter for her over-bearing mother Ming (Oh) and enjoying life as a young teen, worshipping boy band 4*Town with her friends Miriam (Morse), Abby (Park) and Priya (Ramakrishnan).
Meilin’s life gets even more complicated when she discovers that if she gets too angry or excited she turns into a giant, fluffy red panda – part of a family legacy her mother had neglected to tell her about.
Mei’s transformation could be seen as a metaphor for going through the bodily changes of puberty, and the accompanying embarrassment and fluctuating emotions, but there’s much more going on here as she embraces her new – and very loveable – persona, using her red panda’s cuddliness as a way to help her and her pals earn the money they need to see their beloved boy band (whose songs are written by Billie Eilish and Finneas).
Beautifully directed by Domee Shi (who also co-wrote the movie with Julia Cho), this has moments that will resonate with everyone who has been through those awkward teenage years, but also has a lot to appeal to younger viewers, including comic scenes as Mei tries to come to terms with being in the body of a giant fur ball. One of the nicest touches is Mei’s friendship group that supports her – in any other movie there would have been conflict written in, but these great girls stick together – while the relationship between Mei and Ming is funny and pretty lovely, too.
Bright, funny, warm and sweet at the same time (and yes, very cuddly), this is an adorable coming of age movie for everyone and one of Pixar’s best movies in recent years.
Is Turning Red suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Very young children may be a little surprised when Mei first turns into a red panda.
SPOILER: There is a scene later in the movie where Mei and other members of her family turn into other creatures, and one in particular is a little scary for very young viewers, but everyone returns to normal before the end of the movie.
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