REVIEW: ‘Turning Red’ understands the pre-teen experience

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By Vianney Morales

Pixar’s latest animated film “Turning Red” is the first Pixar film that explores the topic of puberty.

What’s even more intriguing is it’s the studio’s first film to be entirely written, produced and directed by women. The authenticity of the writers’ experiences from their adolescence shines bright in the newest animated flick.

“If you honor your parents too much, you might forget to honor yourself,” is a line from the opening monologue, delivered by the protagonist, that encapsulates the film’s message.

The film takes place in Toronto, Canada in 2002. It follows the story of Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang) beginning her path to womanhood. Unfortunately for Mei, she deals with the intense moments of puberty by turning into a fluffy red panda whenever she experiences extreme emotions. 

Mei is born into a proud, but rigid, family that she assists by operating one of the oldest running temples in Toronto. Mei’s mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), expects Mei to prioritize excelling in her academics and contributions to the family. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for Mei to pursue her individual interests outside of the collective’s.  

Up until Mei begins puberty, she doesn’t mind this arrangement. 

Naturally, the onset of puberty is tumultuous for Mei Lee. Her group of supportive friends helps her navigate her concurrent transitions when her mother fails to address her emotional needs. 

Mei’s newfound appreciation for friendship guides her desire to break away from the cut-throat mold that her mother has created. We see Mei wanting to establish her identity and embrace her interests. 

She begins to understand the value of her friendships and, inadvertently, how much she overvalued her mother’s happiness instead of her own. 

Not only does the film have a meaningful message for those that have similar experiences to Mei Lee, but it also nails the early 2000s nostalgia and overall pre-teen experience.

From the boy band craze to Tamagotchis and an embarrassingly ravenous interest in boys, “Turning Red” hilariously addresses the many pitfalls of the pre-teen experience. The film is heartfelt and comedic, complete with music from the fictitious boyband 4*TOWN. Despite the lack of theatrical release, “Turning Red” has just as much heart as its Pixar predecessors.

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