It's gonna be Mei! When I first saw the trailer for Pixar's Turning Red and heard "It's Gonna be Me" playing in the background I was sold. I've been looking forward to this film ever since and now I am happy to report that it is available as of TODAY on Disney+. I know this is a bummer for some, because originally Turning Red was going to get a theatrical release, but on a personal note, since I have young kids being able to stream a brand new film, at home, at no extra cost (other than our monthly bill for the streaming service) is nice. But is Turning Red OK for young kids? I'm sharing my thoughts on the PG rating, the language and the overall vibe of the film - without spoilers of course, in my parent review.
Turning Red | No-Spoilers, Parent Review
I should start off by saying I did not have early access to this film. I watched Turning Red on Disney+ on the day it premiered and I've decided to share my thoughts on the film incase there are parents out there with young children who are thinking about watching it soon.
Turning Red | Movie Synopsis
Disney and Pixar's Turning Red introduces Mei Lee, a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother's dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming, is never far from her daughter - an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren't enough, whenever she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS), she "poofs" into a giant red panda!
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Turning Red | Review
In Pixar's Turning Red we see a generational curse front and center. The curse of needing to please your mother/parent/guardian almost to the point of self-destruction.
We see this in Mei's relationship with her mother, Ming and then we see it in Ming's relationship with her own mother.
This need to overachieve was certainly present in 2002, the time in which the movie takes place, and is still prevalent in today's society as well. Children are over-scheduled; between school during the day, homework at night, sports, and other after school activities, they don't often get a chance to do something for themselves.
In Mei's case she likes listening to her favorite boyband and wants to seize an opportunity to see them live in concert. A 13 year old wanting to go to a concert doesn't seem like a big ask, but in overprotective Ming's mind, it's like Mei has asked to go to the moon!
When Mei turns into a panda it is like all of your preteen and early teen years anxiety personified. This giant (and literal) bear in the room just needing to be dealt with while you also work so hard to push it down and suppress it.
A callout that I feel compelled to share since this is a Disney/Pixar film, Mei has both of her parents throughout the entire film. As seasoned Disney and Pixar viewers know, this is rare, though perhaps becoming the "new norm" given Disney's Encanto also had two parents too.
I loved how Turning Red explored female friendships and really showed the importance of finding a core group of friends and what it can mean for one's mental health.
Young children will find the overall plot of Turning Red easy enough to follow; super strict mother won't allow daughter to attend a concert and said daughter also turns into a panda when she gets too nervous, excited, scared, or angry.
But there are certainly concepts that will go over their head; like Mei and her friends having crushes on multiple boys; they make comments about the activeness of the members of 4*Town and they make comments on the physique of boys on the basketball team plus there are references to changes in hormones, bodies and relationships.
I don't consider myself someone who often gets shocked by language in a family film. I expect a certain usage of dumb, stupid, and jerk but Turning Red managed to surprise me.
The word crap is used twice in this film. It caught me off guard the first time and I actually believed I misheard it, then I was even more surprised when I heard it a second time.
Other words used throughout the film include stupid, degenerate, delinquent, perv and sexy (which may have been even more surprising than crap).
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The PG Rating
Turning Red is rated PG for "thematic material, suggestive content and language".
I agree with the PG rating.
I already mentioned the language in the film and there are other more "adult" like themes throughout the film as well.
For starters, Mei's mom is very critical of people and refers to more than one person as a degenerate, a perv and questions if someone is on drugs. She also criticizes dancing and calls it gyrating.
Being that this is a film about a teenage girl, there is a scene that centers around a certain monthly visitor. It is not discussed at length by any means but it could leave some children with questions.
Other themes include lying to parents, sneaking out of the house, and attending a house party.
There is a scene that may be intense for younger children near the beginning of the film that involves thunder and lightning and Mei actively having trouble sleeping as she is seen tossing and turning (presumably from a nightmare). Along with the shots of Mei, there are quick flashes to other shadowy objects and animals with red eyes. This scene is fairly quick but could still be frightening.
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This is a Pixar so film so you already know the animation is going to be bright, crisp, extremely detailed and just overall very visually appealing.
Turning Red has the gold standard of animation from Pixar you expect and then some!
I really like how they managed to blend in their expected style and also included nods to anime. There are multiple scenes with quick cut aways to anime-stylized eyes which really make an impact throughout the film.
I really enjoyed Turning Red. I was instantly brought back in time to my preteen years as I obsessed over a boyband, dealt with crushes, embarrassing moments and had lots of laughs with my group of friends - Turning Red is a coming of age story for Generation Y.
Did I selfishly want more 4*Town? Yes! (Side note: I really appreciated the use of the * in the band name) I wish we could have seen Mei and her friends enjoying the band a bit more, maybe even having the movie go in a completely different direction and get Mei's mom in the mix dancing to some 4*Town as she finally lets loose and lets her hair down.
Ming's complete disgust for 4*Town is one thing I could not relate to in this film.
My mom was not against younger me obsessing over a boyband. My mother went to the concerts with me and (happily??) drove out to New York City at 3am to stand outside of the Today Show when *NSYNC was going to perform.
It would have been nice if Mei and her mom could have ended up bonding over 4*Town, using them as a way to connect with each other, and allowing Ming to grow passed the strict, overbearing mother characterization but, that would have required a completely different storyline so, I get it.
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Turning Red Age Recommendation: 7+
My younger children did not enjoy this film as much as I assumed they would. I thought they would find Mei turning into a panda funny but they actually mirrored Mei's anxiety. They were saying she needed to calm down, they wanted her to breathe and they did not want her to turn into a panda.
With there being so many layers to Mei and Ming's relationship plus the language used and references made I do believe Turning Red is better suited for slightly older children. I also think Turning Red could provide some great talking points for parents with a preteen.
Turning Red brings best friends and boybands to the forefront and brings an entire generation back in time.
My only gripe? Why is 4*Town called 4*Town when there are in fact 5 members of the band? I'm going to need a "Behind the Music" or "Diary" episode to explain this, STAT!
Stream Pixar's Turning Red on Disney+ now!