Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang), the protagonist of the new Pixar film “Turning Red,” is going through changes.
This young lady is a math ace, a talented musician and a responsible daughter who always helps her mother, Ming (Sandra O), clean up around the temple her family operates. She’s also a typical 13-year-old whose friends and her favorite band are her whole world and who is beginning to develop a crush on the 17-year-old guy who works at her neighborhood bodega.
Like most kids that age, Meilin is going through changes. Unlike most kids, however, her changes included hulking out into a giant red panda whenever she is overcome with emotion. As you might guess, turning into a big, furry animal is not optimal under so much pressure from her family and leads Meilin into conflict with her mother as she struggles to balance her life while also dealing with the beast inside of her.
Does that sound familiar to you? Does it perhaps give you flashbacks to middle school?
“Turning Red” tackles the uncomfortable, sometimes painful subject of puberty. It tackles that awkward chapter of your life when you not only start growing hair in strange places but also begin to search for your own identity. It captures the emotional swings from elation to frustration that are a fact of life for pre-teens.
The movie does these things in an absurd, overly-melodramatic way that was a little eye-rolling for me until I remembered what life was like for me when I was that age. It was basically a continuous series of world-ending events filled with embarrassment and cringe. I remember it feeling like the end of the world because someone told the girl that I liked that I was into her. I remember daydreaming about my celebrity crushes Princess Leia and Lita Ford. I remember fighting with my parent over stupid subjects like growing my hair long and wanting to buy a Harley-Davidson when I grew up.
“Turning Red” captures that in a way that is completely relatable to people who’ve been through it. It may even serve as a handy tool to help parents show their kids that they do indeed understand how much life as a teenager can stink.
Visually, the movie looks about as good as other computer-animated franchises like “Despicable Me” or “Ice Age.” It’s nothing to write home about, though there is a couple of lovely scenes that take place in a bamboo forest that are striking to the eye. Meilin’s transformations into her panda are accompanied by big, poofy clouds of pink smoke that made me crave cotton candy. So, I guess that was pretty successful, too.
The best parts of “Turning Red” are the messages it has to say about embracing every part of yourself, even the weird parts. That’s a message that I think kids (and even some adults) need to hear. The movie also touches on the importance of having friends you can lean on when things get turned upside-down. The scenes with Meilin and her squad are some of the best in the movie.
“Turning Red” is a funny, at times touching, movie that has a little something to offer family members of all ages. Kids should dig the humor and the big, furry red panda action while it may also send adults on a trip down the awkward stretches of Memory Lane.
”Turning Red” is available to stream right now on Disney+.
Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.