April 20, 2024

Once you accept that Pixar will never reach the heights it once coasted at, you can accept that “Turning Red” is a solid entry in its canon. Better than “Luca” in pretty much every way. Some very funny moments. Solid Pixar fluff. Get it? Fluff?

…Never mind.

“Turning Red” is the latest of Pixar’s releases to have  a theatrical release nixed in favor of being dumped straight to Disney+. While for “Luca” this was a sad indicator of quality, “Turning Red” feels like Pixar at its pre-pandemic post-“Inside Out” peak. Every Pixar story asks a similar question: “Do monsters have feelings?”, “Do cars have feelings?”, “Do jazz-pianists have feelings?”. Now, with “Turning Red” they ask: “Do Canadians have feelings?”

Joking aside, “Turning Red” is the story of a girl growing up in Toronto who really just wants to find her own way, coming out of her family’s expectations of her. It is a coming-of-age, much like “Luca,” but by way of red pandas and finding who you are. Some of the messaging is blatant where subtlety is better suited, but some of the visual humor, as well as verbal, land very well and make “Turning Red” a fun treat on Disney+ for the whole family to enjoy.

The animation style cops the very urban, bent-reality feel that “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” had, yet feels wholly and completely Pixar. Visually, it is one of their more impressive offerings in quite a while.

The soundtrack manages to recapture 2002 very well, with a boy band (whose songs are penned by Finneas and Billie Eilish) with catchy songs that sharply satirize the era, while making a notable contribution to its sound, as well. It helps cement the reality of “Turning Red” and makes the world feel big and lived-in. And the world is very big.

If you thought “Onward” had a big conclusion, Pixar goes all in with a climax that I won’t spoil here, but is one of their biggest in a long time. And while it does not have the emotional peaks and valleys of “Onward,” there is a tender moment or two shared. But largely, “Turning Red” is about having a fun time, and if you turn it on with your family or some good friends, you’ll have a good time by accepting it for what it is.

3 out of 5 stars.

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