Film: ‘Turning Red’ (Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar); Duration: 99 minutes
Director: Domee Shi
Voice Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, Lori Tan Chinn, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Lillian Lim, James Hong, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O’Connell
IANS Rating: ***This 2D animated film – ‘Turning Red’ is an amusingly heart-warming coming-of-age film about mothers and daughters- and growing up to celebrate a growth mindset in accepting who you are.
The story follows an intelligent Meilin “Mei” Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian, who has been brought up with the notion of “honour your parents.” But now, eager to experience what life has to offer her as a teenage kid, Mei finds herself at cross-roads especially – when it comes to her over-protective and concerned mother.
Not wanting to hurt her parents, and at the same time, her pent-up angst literally transforms her into a huge grizzly, red Panda. Mei experiences this whenever she is in an agitated mood or feels a strong emotion, which as a teenager, is quite often. After a shocking revelation about her ancestors, Mei realises that her transformation has more to do with her genes. But this does not stop her from doing what she wants to do. The narrative takes a fantasy route when Mei utilises her mystical power of transformation to further her teen cravings.
Written and directed by Domee Shi, who had earlier directed the sensitive short film ‘Bao’, this is her maiden feature film. She has done a commendable job. There is a lot of cultural representation among the characters in the film, like Mei’s friend Priya who is of Indian Origin and a Sardar Security guard, but they do nothing creditable to enhance the story.
The script, unlike any Disney film, is strangely bold and edgy. The narrative flows smoothly, and the dialogues are never over the top, but some of the humour goes places that one would have never expected in a Disney or Pixar film.
There is no slapstick comedy that could entice the younger audience, but there are plenty of scenes with physical comedy that will make you chuckle, especially when Mei – as the red panda tries to escape from her friends.
Visually the computer-generated animated images are striking. The animators have painstakingly ensured that the facial expressions sync well with emotions, and the fur of the Panda looks real. Each frame is vibrant, with a vast array of colours that would mesmerize you.
What elevates the viewing experience is the voices of the ace star cast which perfectly match with that of the characters.
Ludwig Goransson’s background score is lively and foot-tapping. The soundtracks, which include a few songs, aptly fit into the narration. The lyrics are unpretentious and engaging, especially the song, “I’ve never met anybody like you.”
Overall, the film is refreshingly delightful for adults and children alike.