Review: Turning Red

Turning Red screenshot

Year: 2022 | Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rarely have I felt so seen by an ancillary character in a film as much as I have with Tyler (Tristan Allerick Chen) in Turning Red. Apart from the obvious name similarity, I was twelve years old in 2002, and while I had moved on in my musical taste by this time, I was only a couple of years or so removed from a time in my life when the Backstreet Boys were my favorite band. I also went through a bullying phase in middle school, which was mostly designed to mask my own insecurities about my sexuality, which floated between anywhere from “straight as an arrow” to “maybe a tiny bit bisexual” to “full-blown gay” on any given day (turns out I’m the latter).

It was a confusing time, and like so many teen boys, I dealt with that confusion by being an asshole until I was mature enough to be comfortable with my own identity, or at least to realize that it’s not anybody else’s problem if I wasn’t. I’m not saying that the character of Tyler is 100% intended to be queer-coded in this film, all I’m saying is that they pegged the fuck out of me with that one.

Annnnnyway, to the film itself: In my review for last year’s Pixar offering Luca, one of my criticisms was that while it on the surface had a different tone and vibe than any of Pixar’s other films, those differences were only surface deep and at its core, it’s a remarkably familiar story told in a somewhat unique way. In contrast, Turning Red feels wholly unique among Pixar’s filmography in almost conceivable way. Apart from the whole “girl turning into a giant red panda” thing, this movie feels more at home with, say, PEN15Eighth Grade or Sex Education than it does even Pixar’s other coming-of-age movies like LucaInside Out or Coco. It’s been a while since Pixar gave us something so unapologetically different, and I hope that trend continues as they give more and more first-time directors like Domee Shi a chance to make their debut features.

Riotously funny and featuring a slammer of a soundtrack by Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, Turning Red isn’t exactly as profound (and therefore as moving) as some of Pixar’s other recent work (think Soul and the aforementioned Coco and Inside Out), but it is a tremendously effective coming-of-age story that is a pure delight to watch.

Language: English
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Runtime: 1 hr. 40 min.
Rating: PG

Director: Domee Shi
Starring: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park

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