‘Turning Red’: Addressing the struggles of a preteen (Review)


IMDB/official movie poster

BREAKING RULES: Mei Mei Lee sneaks out, goes to a concert, and much more in Disney’s newest release. It premiered on March 11, 2022 on the streaming service, Disney+.

“Honoring your parents sounds great but if you take it too far, well, you might forget to honor yourself. Luckily, I don’t have that problem.”

These are some of the first lines heard from Meilin “Mei” or “Mei Mei” Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian student who transforms into a giant red panda when she experiences strong emotions, in the movie Turning Red

While forgetting to honor herself is not a problem she faces, finding a balance between doing what she wants versus what her family wants is.

This is reminiscent of a movie Disney released in late 2021, Encanto. Both Meilin and Encanto’s central characters, Mirabel Madrigal, deal with familial issues and balancing expectations, especially those connected to ancestry.

The popularity of a boyband, 4-Town, is what leads to the ultimate test of Mei and her mother’s relationship. This is a very real problem for this 13-year-old since the animation takes place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2002.

Due to its setting, we also see numerous references to things that would now seem out of date like Tamagotchi, The SkyDome, exchanging CDs, and TTC Metropass.

Aside from the main conflict, no film about teenagers is complete without the inclusion of a crush or potential love interest. On this note, I would simply say if you get second-hand embarrassment, go into the movie mentally prepared.

Mei is not alone in her adventures. Her best friends Miriam, Priya, and Abby are alongside her at nearly every turn. It should be noted that Meilin’s friend group is fairly diverse, showcasing the diversity of her town and school as well. 

Overall, I found the movie quite entertaining. It addresses real problems that a teenager faces, especially during the turning point of puberty, while still keeping it lighthearted and fun with comedy included throughout. I watched it with family members ranging from 4 to 37-years-old, and they all enjoyed it as well.

However, I have been asked by numerous people if I think young children could watch it, and my short answer is no. Unless your child is already aware of mild language such as “crap,” “freak,” “jerkwad,” “butthead,” etc, and/or you are willing to explain different topics such as the “sexy” drawings made by Mei as they arise, I would simply shy away from this movie for anyone who is under the age of 10. For more information on this topic, I would go to CommonSenseMedia and read the reviews left by children and parents.

This movie is great for those beginning to go through puberty. It showcases that finding a balance between the freedom wanted by a teen and the freedom needed by a teen can be a blurry line, but the use of communication can make the transition easier, allowing one to honor their family and themselves.