Turning Red: Combo Disney Pixar’s Brave and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Turning Red Premiere on Disney+ March 11th
Last Friday I was surprised by a movie whose poster that seemed like it was for an inevitable short-lived Disney television series about America’s burgeoning obsessiong with the indigenous Red Pandas of Asia (which look for like foxes doe the unfamiliar. I was soo wrong! Like a whiley fox, Turning Red tricked those expectations, but oh soo warmly like a bowl of Chinese noodle soup. It put me in my place and reminded me that I am approaching that level in the parenting video game where we meet the protagonist Mei and her mother Ming Lee. Cue Britney Spears’ “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman”.
In this review I tried my best to not spoil about the movie, but to be safe don’t read this. Just go see the movie! Only issue with it is that there’s no “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” song ☺️ but I don’t know if any movie can ever eclipse Lin-Maneul Miranda’s song from Encanto.
The film is a combination of Disney Pixar’s Brave and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The first is a Mother-Daughter movie in which the mother is cursed by her daugher into a bear, and they both learn the usual lesson of understanding each other and accepting each other. Since the movie is pickled in pop boy bands and cutesy anime motifs of the Y2K era (which is visually grating in some parts I must add), there’s a lot of action and video game type pacing and style, along with momentary cheesy anime character gestures, facial expressions, and storytelling devices. But don’t worry, Turning Red is anchored in good writing that is real and relatable for most 13 year olds, though more so girls.
The new Pixar film about an Asian Canadian teen going through puberty has been criticized by some as “totally unrelatable” and “wildly inappropriate”, spuring a debate about double standards in film criticsm. To each their own, but I don’t share this view. I say go watch it for yourself. My husband and almost 4 year old daughter were instantly paying attention and liked it, so don’t discount it like I did at first.
As a Millennial who was 13 years old in 2002, I recognized so much from my adolescence. But I wasn’t into Anime and I wasn’t much of a boy band fan girl either. I also didn’t have the possee of incredibly supportive, ride-or-die female friends that Mei is blessed with. They are an incredible help in her embracing herself, and on the other side of this tale is the toxic support Ming has put upon her by her mother and the female members of her family who come to help her since she is deemed not doing very well in handling her daugher during this important milestone that is very specific to the women in their family. I really don’t want to ruin too much of the movie, but bear with me.
I went in thinking it would be another coming-of-age tween story that would end up one of those lesser Pixar pictures. So while the movie started playing, I went to go make myself a refreshnig Moscow Mule instead. And just like that, the movie put in my place and I had to ask my husband to quickly fill me in on some of what I missed.
Must Watch Part
The last 20 minutes of Turning Red is where it delivers it’s best punch. It’s the must watch part where mother and daughter transform each other, a sliding doors moment where their futures hang in the balance and everything comes together. An actual portal opens and they make it through the fire in the most unexpected me, at least for me anyway.
Turning Red isn’t a musical like Encanto and other Disney movies, but that ending made my feelings swell like one of those fever pitch moments with the lynchpin song that really makes those types of movies. Music is often the strongest device in movies, but in Turning Red it’s mostly the story that takes you to that other realm that cleanses you of the pain that the movie is reminding you of and from which you are deriving meaning and closure.
The Big Take Away
I don’t remember the last family movie that has made me tear up naturally, and uncontrollably. I wasn’t balling from Turning Red because I have already gone through that mother daughter experience where you see yourself in your mom and everything about her that she did and does for you comes full circle…because you are now in her role in this video game of Mother-Child. So for you moms out there, remember that your daugher’s angry teenage phase, where she hates you the most, will pass and there are Turning Red will give you some tips to get through that red tide (both figuratively and really)—pay attention to the dad in the movie, he’s smarter than he lets on.
When you’re a kid, you don’t realize that your parent was your age once. I always saw my parents as always put together for some reason, like I was more akward and behind on figuring things out and finding my place—like they couldn’t understand my experience. That’s what Mei is coming to find is not true about her mother. There’s a very sweet part of the movie where her dad facilitates her a-ha moment about her mom—an example of how sharing notes from your story with your child is so important. The movie should also be a call-to-action for children (of all ages) to ask their parents to share their stories, so they can better navigate through their level in the video game. The video game metaphor works really well, right?
I highly recommend also reading my article from a few years back about Attachment and The Mother-Child Relationship after this review.
Like the The Legend of Zelda mixed with Mario Bros., Mei learns her family’s legend and it turns out it’s her mom who is the princess who needs saving. If you believe in a soul and psychic connection between children and their parents, this probably makes more sense for you. For those who I’ve lost, just think about—mothers bear us into the world, but even if we’ve been disconnected from her for decades, wouldn’t it stand to reason that a piece of what tethered us still remains? Hey, the movie has magic at the center of it, both fantastical and actual. Science can’t explain the itiest bitiest piece of the puzzle of our existence, and maybe that’s because our lives were made possible by a bit of magic. Hell, I still can’t figure out how 1s and 0s come to create these pixels I’m typing out for you read on your screen.
So go give Turning Red a try. I truly think you won’t regret it and it may just turn your relationship with your parent(s) around.
And remember, don’t trust critics—trust people! Read reviews on your streaming service of choice, IMDb, etc. online. Ask people in your life how they liked the movie. Then take all the input and trust your intuition and best judgement;you can’t go wrong. There are many reasons why there haven’t come to be another Kael, Siskel, or Ebert type movie critics. Everyone’s a critic now, only better. Don’t trust everything you read, but don’t take just one source’s word for it. With so many choices you can choose to read or listen to any, some, or none of them. But in the end, what matters is what you like. So if you see one of these Stephanie Pyrzynski’s Movie Reviews, I am not a movie critic. No! No! I’m just a writer who knows that branding is important, and if I happen to guide you readers to things you like more often than not, it’ll be a little easier to remember who I was.
This is the perfect date for me to write this review because I believe in the meaning in coincidences.
- On March 15, 2014 my husband finally made a decision on our first bedroom furniture set.
- On March 14, 2014 again, my husband finds the wedding suit he loved…
- Unfortunately an error in tailoring process forced my husband to choose a different suit. But it was completley different (dark blue instead of steely gray. We were soo close to the wedding that he didn’t have much choice.
- On March 14, 2018 I complete an about 6 mile induction walk around the Orland Grasslands Forest Preserve in Orland Park, IL with our trusty dog Samantha.
- March 2022 next week is our daughter’s 4th birthday—the number 4 by the way plays a part in the movie.
What are the odds? Thanks to Apple’s Photos app for reminding me of the memories. As former Mayor Ed Zabrocki once told me,
Apologizes to the artist, but the above image was captured by my iPhone from the Turning Red "Making of" featurette on Disney+. It was so beautiful I wanted to share it, but I couldn't find your name to give it attribution. Please let me know your name because you made something beautiful!