#TurningRed – VOD Review

Turning Red – Budget of $175 million – 1 hour and 40 minutes

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Meilin Lee is an intelligent and spirited 13-year-old who is ready to make her mark on the world.  She earns top grades in school and works as an assistant manager at her parents’ temple.  According to her bus pass, Mei is an adult with all the responsibilities.  Just don’t tell her mother, Ming. Ming believes that Mei’s number one priority is family, and she will be the U.N. Secretary-General.  Every day, Mei and Ming honor their eldest ancestor, Sun Yee, the guardian of the Red Panda, and receive prosperity.

After school, Mei’s friends, Priya, Miriam, and Abby, ogle the convenience store clerk, Devon.  Mei doesn’t think Devon holds a candle to any member of their favorite boy band, 4*Town.  The girls swoon over their latest magazine cover and ask Mei to karaoke with them.  Mei says no because she needs to work, but they make her promise to ask Ming for permission one day.  Mei studies after work and doodles.  She notices her doodles look like Devon and obsessively draws romantic scenes with him.  Mei hears Ming at the door and pushes the notebook under her bed.  But Ming finds it and believes Devon accosted Mei.  Ming drags Mei to the store and demands answers from Devon.  Ming shows Mei’s drawings to Devon and admonishes him for hurting Mei.  Thoroughly embarrassed but quiet, Mei returns home.

After a restless and nightmare-filled night, Mei wakes up, goes to the bathroom, and looks in the mirror.  She finds a giant red panda staring back at her.  Hearing Mei scream, Ming thinks Mei started her menstrual cycle.  She tries to comfort Mei, but Mei runs to her bedroom.  Mei calms herself and changes back to her human form, except now Mei has red hair.  She realizes that she must keep calm to stop the change and goes to school with a hat to avoid Ming.

Mei avoids her friends and keeps her head down, but they can see something is wrong.  Miriam attempts to ask, but class starts.  After passing notes, Miriam warns Mei that Ming is outside.  Mei freaks out when she sees Ming with feminine hygiene products, and the panda comes out.  Mei runs into the bathroom for safety, but it’s a mistake.  She escapes through the window and runs home.  Ming meets Mei at home and comforts Mei, and Jin says he can’t believe it happened so early.  Mei stops and stares at Ming and Jin in confusion.  Ming explains that the Red Panda gene passes from mother to daughter.  It started with Sun Yee.  While men fought in a war, the women, children, and the village were unprotected.  So Sun Yee asks the Gods to give her the power to defend the town and its inhabitants.  The family left the area, and this trait became an inconvenience.  But there is a cure.  At the next red moon, Ming can perform a ritual to remove the panda from Mei.  The red moon will be on May 25th.  Mei must keep the panda at bay as much as possible.  The more it comes out, the more complex the ritual will be.  Until then, Ming doesn’t think Mei should go to school.

Concerned and with 4*Town news, Mei’s friends come by her window to visit.  They tell her 4*Town is coming to Toronto on May 18th.  She unknowingly changes to the panda and pokes her head out the window.  Her friends are happy with her transformation and want to know more.  They all want to go to the concert, but it will cost $200 each and Mei must keep calm.  They need a way to earn cash.  Mei changes back and realizes her friends keep her calm.  Mei thinks she can keep it under control with her friends around.  However, that hope is short-lived when a student bullies Mei.  Soon the whole school knows about the panda, but they want to pay for more.  The girls decided to institute Operation 4*Town Showdown.  They will sell panda experiences for concert funds.  Mei thinks she has everything figured out.  But when Mei has to choose between her friends’ happiness or her family duties, her choice will unleash her family’s true legacy.

Pixar keeps creating new and complex characters with real-world issues that ground them alongside mystical origins.  Mei isn’t searching for herself.  Mei knows who she is and doesn’t apologize.  Although some call her annoying and a nerd, she blossoms with her friends by her side.  Her friends have distinct and loving personalities.  Just like the boy band they deeply love.  When they discover the truth, they don’t shun her.  They embrace her and help Mei find inner peace.  As per usual, the graphics are stellar and eye-catching.  The mix between traditional art, in the storytelling portions, and modern art is effortless.  The traditional animation embraces the culture and history the film represents.  Don’t be so quick to judge.  The film appears to treat Ming as the antagonist, but the plot gets to the heart of her issues and controlling nature.  This pivotal moment allows Mei to understand that she and Ming are the same.  Now, this movie starts slow because you are anticipating the transformation.  But, the beginning is critical to understand the relationship between Mei, her family, and friends.  So be patient.  And let’s not forget the hilarious post-credit scene.

I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars

This will never happen again – Ming

Let’s burn this place to the ground – Abby

Yeah, but tickets to 4*Town are like a bajillion dollars, and Devon’s right here – Priya

Did the red peony bloom – Ming

What’s with your face – Miriam

It’s happened already – Jin

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