Cert - PG, Run-time - 1 hour 40 minutes,
Director - Domee Shi
13-year-old Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) is going through the standard changes of growing up,
however, her outgoing confidence is shattered when a generational ‘blessing’ causes her to turn into a giant red panda whenever emotional or
From the opening of Pixar’s latest we’re introduced to just-turned-13-year-old Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang) with an outburst of overflowing self-confidence and ambition. She knows who she is, she’s proud of it, and won’t let anyone get in the way of her and her plans for her future as she begins to properly grow up.
Yet, despite a dash of humour or two - “I will not hesitate to do a spontaneous cartwheel if I feel so moved!” - the thought does enter the mind of just how much of this can be put up with throughout the film. Is the outgoing nature of this figure going to become a bit much?
How glad I was to be proved so wrong so quickly. Meilin’s attitude is soon shattered as she faces the realities of growing up, and a generational blessing turned “inconvenience” for her family. Until a ritual can be performed at the next red moon in a month’s time, Meilin transforms into an eight-foot-tall red panda every time she is emotional or overexcited. Thus, she must learn to stay calm and control her emotions amidst the hazardous road of first crushes, her favourite boyband coming to town and her own personal stresses.
Pixar have become known for winding their themes into layered animation and fantastical elements - just see Inside Out and its themes of necessary sadness. Yet, here they make a number of direct statements. Co-writer (alongside Julia Cho) and Director, Domee Shi (who was behind the wonderful short film Bao for the studio a few years ago) uses a semi-autobiographical nature for this film - although perhaps she didn’t turn into a giant red panda as part of an ancient family blessing in real life - and tackles ideas of mood swings and periods as simple fact-of-life elements.
Shi and the studio directly speak to a specific
audience with such moments, those going through the worries that Meilin is having about her future and growing up. Saying to them ‘it’s going to be alright’, even by simply setting the film in 2002, when Shi would have been around thirteen. With a relatively stripped back story, the themes are allowed to lift the film up and do much of the talking.
Amongst this there’s still the usual fantastical family fare and elements included, and a fair deal of humour, too.
This is perhaps Pixar’s funniest film to date, with many laugh-out-loud moments within each scene helping to move things along smoothly and keep all viewers engaged throughout the 100 minute run-time – particularly those which it appears to speak to most, with a level of thought and understanding.
**** <-- Four Stars Jamie Skinner