The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend – Turning Red

The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend – Turning Red

Post-Lasseter Pixar can be summed up in two words: Self-indulgent.

Self-indulgence permeates every facet of that studio’s productions since Lasseter’s departure.  The last film that was tolerable was Onward and that was mostly because of the exuberance of the voice cast.  It was the last movie Pixar made with the Woke brakes anywhere near “on.”

Turning Red is self-indulgence turned up to 11.

Every scene was built around the question: What about m-e-e-e-e-e-e???

Director Domee Shi had a very good little Pixar short with Bao.  It was about a Chinese-Canadian Tiger-Mom smothering her son with over-protectiveness until she destroyed their relationship.  And then it was repaired thanks to the son being willing to forgive her.  It was a decent plot for a short.  

Sadly, it turns out that Domee Shi is a one-trick pony.  Turning Red is the exact same story, with a red, giant, furry menstruation metaphor tucked in. 

What is it with feminists and their periods?  How in hell are they so damn traumatized by them? 

Recent text conversation:

Dark Spawn: Dad you still at the store?

Dark Herald: yep

Dark Spawn: please pick up some ibuprofen and a box of pads?

Dark Herald:  send a picture of the box

That’s it.  Problem concluded.  

But Woklings like Domee Shi are convinced that the first “that time of the month,” is an incredibly powerful metaphor for the awkwardness of female adolescence.  Well, I’ve never had one, so okay, let’s say it is.  Why does any parent want to have that conversation with a six-year-old, (of either sex) while watching what is supposed to be a damn kid’s movie?  

This is just one of this film’s many, many problems.

The biggest problem is easily its protagonist, Mei.  She is an obvious author’s self-insert and an intensely dislikeable one.  Look at her picture, she reeks of smug self-satisfaction.  When we are first introduced to her at the start of the movie we get a montage chronicling her string of academic achievements and her go-getting ambitious future. Her only problem is that she isn’t selfish enough.

Writing 101, you need to make the audience sympathize with your protagonist and (usually) demonstrate that that character is a good person.  Showing how she does everything right, and giving her a single humble-brag flaw is not the way to do that.

Domee Shi, apparently decided that Mabel from Gravity Falls could be made perfect if only Mabel was exactly like her.  And I’m telling the truth here, it does indeed feel like Turning Red cribbed heavily from the Gravity Falls episode, Boyz Crazy.  Mabel and her girl-gang were imported into this film and made “better.”

However, Mabel could manage just the right amount of cringe to be enjoyable.  Past a certain point, cringe is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, and it plain stops being funny. It’s a tricky line to navigate and this flick blew past it at ninety miles an hour.  This movie was so cringe, I was asked by my womenfolk to turn it off within the first fifteen minutes.  I had to finish watching it on my laptop and I really didn’t want to.


(*long tired sigh*) Mei is a Chinese-Canadian girl who is super-smart and driven to be the best at everything which she almost always is.  She has a multi-cultural girl gang who constantly tell her she’s the best.  None of them are at all attractive.  Mei is also devoted to her family.  Although as I said, she isn’t anywhere near self-centered enough.  She has entered her boy-crazy period and is desperate to see her favorite boy band 4*Town.

Mei’s mother is a drastically overprotective tiger mom.  She humiliates her daughter repeatedly while trying to protect her from the world, going far as to stalk her at school.  Getting caught, naturally, thus humiliating her daughter further.  The worst incident was when the mother finds some of Meibel’s sketches of a boy she has a crush on, and her Mom storms off and chews out the clueless boy, in front of Meibel and all their friends.

Meibel’s deep arousal while drawing those sketches was rather uncomfortable to watch.  Another joke that didn’t land.

The next morning, she turns into a giant red panda. She quickly discovers she can reverse it if she just calms down, but any strong emotional outburst will bring out the panda. 

Her girl gang quickly discovers her new superpower. And they all think it’s cool and empowering.  

Her parents tell her it’s the gift/curse of the females of their family, to start turning into a panda when the (gag) “Red Pinone begins to bloom.”  But as luck and weak writing would have it, a ceremony will lock the panda away in a bit of jewelry if the ceremony is performed at the next red moon.

Sadly, that is the night that 4*Town is coming to Toronto. This will be her only chance to see them live.

Stuff happens to build conflict with her mother.  Her grandmother, who naturally as night follows day, had tiger-mommed the hell out of Meibel’s own mother, arrives with her aunts to perform the ceremony.  

Meibel runs off to the concert.  Her mother turns into a Kaiju red panda (it’s not cultural appropriation if non-whites do it) and tears up the concert.

Meibel fights her, wins by a knockout declaring her right to be selfish as she does so. And then they have to perform the ceremony on her mother.  Meibel and her mother come to some understanding about tiger moms and I check my watch with an expression of desperate longing on my face, willing this damn thing to be over with.

Denouncement: Meibel is allowed to keep her panda, which she naturally does with an air of intense self-satisfaction. “My panda, my choice Mom!” 

Lasseter used to prevent things like this from happening.  Which is why he had to go.

There was a good movie in here somewhere and John Lasseter could have brought it out.  Pete Docter on the other hand is only capable of chirping, “you go, girl!”  Which was the last thing Domee Shi needed to hear.

It will do well on streaming but it wouldn’t have moved as many tickets as Twitter pretends.  Disney called it right by pulling it from theatrical distribution.

This film does have an SJW-Wine-Mom audience built-in, and they will insist it’s all brilliant even if they didn’t watch all of it.  I don’t even have to look to know it has a critic’s score in the high 90s on RT.  Audience scores will be less positive but not low. *

This wasn’t incompetent filmmaking, but the subtext of the B-story was so over the top and in your face, I couldn’t call it good either. And as I have repeatedly said, the cringe was beyond belief.

The Woke was present but honestly, it was the least of this film’s many problems.

I can’t think of a reason for you to see this movie and I wouldn’t have finished it if I didn’t have to write a review about it.


The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend Turning Red.

*Maybe I’m wrong.  Go check for yourself and let me know in the comments.

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