Entertainment

Should Kids Watch Disney’s New “Turning Red” Movie? One Mom’s Honest Review

The very next morning, Mei wakes up and discovers her emotions now turn her into a giant red panda when she becomes triggered (a generational family “quirk”). While trying to deal with this, Mei’s mother freaks out, asking her about her “delicate flower,” which is only the beginning of a long 100 minutes full of period references, girls who drool over any boy who walks by, and defying parents to make yourself happy at all costs.

At its core, Turning Red has all of the makings of a great film. A Chinese-American daughter seeking freedom from her overbearing, helicopter mom. Generational habits and relationships that need mending. Big emotions, and how to manage them. Triggers and crushes and friendship, and feeling torn between family and friends. Bullies and people-pleasing, and growing up—but not too fast.

All of these things are real-life things that normal 13-year-old girls struggle with. But the missed opportunity is how Disney handled Mei’s response to each and every one of these hurdles.

“I’ve been obsessed with my mom’s approval my whole life, I couldn’t take losing it,” Mei says after throwing her friends under the bus when she got in trouble.

What an incredible theme to press into and expound upon. Seeking approval from anyone, much less parents with high expectations is unbelievably relatable. Instead, Disney uses it as an opportunity to suggest it’s okay to choose your friends over your family, and to hurt people—even those who love and care for you—as long as it makes you feel better about yourself.

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When her mom says no, Mei says yes. When her emotions turn her into a giant panda, she exploits her weird transition for money. When her triggers get her into trouble, she abandons her friends. Every opportunity for a very real, and mature teaching moment is met with the very opposite response we’d like our children to take away from these struggles.

Instead of eventually humanizing the mother and bringing healthy communication and reconciliation between the mother and daughter’s characters, the mother remains the antagonist, with no real resolution for how to deal with hard things in families or relationships.

And beyond all of the mature themes, self-idolization, and just down-right weird plot, there’s no way this film could be entertaining for young children. Forget any chance of them understanding what’s going on in the dialogue, much less, finding joy in the big red panda on the screen. When she emerges, she’s usually beating up another child, or angry because her mom was being, well, a mom. And when the panda’s not on the screen, it’s just a whole bunch of 13-year-old girl talk, that is generally only interesting to 13-year-old girls.

Bri Lamm
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Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.

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