By SCOTT PETERSON
Disney/Pixar has set the gold standard when it comes to showcasing films that always feature exemplary animation while simultaneously hiding heartwarming metaphors that affect us in layers. We, as audiences, flock to these films for the sheer entertainment value, but after peeling away these layers, we always go home with a life lesson and an inevitable lump in our throat. If you look across Pixar’s filmography, you will find films littered with poignant messages and unlikely heroes.
The Toy Story franchise taught us that while growing up and moving on is a necessity, the nostalgia and admiration for our youth never leave us. Finding Nemo and Finding Dory gave us two lead characters (one with an underdeveloped fin and the other with a cognitive memory disorder) that taught us to pay attention to ability rather than focus on disability. Inside Out showed us the wide gamut and spectrum of a child’s emotions and how easily they are triggered. Last year’s Soul taught us all about death, grieving, and the never-ending, always evolving pursuit of happiness. If there is one thing we can all use right now, it’s one of Pixar’s feel-good moral manifestations.
Turning Red tells the story of Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a nerdy, eagerto- please thirteen-year-old who gets caught in a tug of war between her onerous and demanding mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), and ever-lurking teen adolescence. Mei’s life becomes even more complicated when she starts to change. Literally. When Mei gets overly excited about anything, she morphs into a giant red panda. Yes, you read that correctly. Suddenly, Mei’s already stressful job of simply navigating through life as a teenager becomes even more overwhelming. Mei must juggle her overbearing mother, friends, and boys, all while concealing her inner panda.
Turning Red does a heartfelt and masterful job of illustrating and trying to explain the unexplainable wonder that is hormones, puberty, and specifically menstrual cycles in young women. Mei walks, talks, and feels like every teenager we’ve ever come across. She doesn’t know why she feels the way she does. It’s as arbitrary as a giant red panda. While Turning Red shines an entertaining spotlight on teen angst, it’s also a great film for adults and a constant reminder that we were once young too.