After Vice-Versa, Pixar returns with a new feature film dedicated to adolescence. A somewhat silly fable about puberty and its hassles? Critical.
Pixar is second to none when it comes to exploring childhood. The studios already have several masterpieces of the genre to their credit, starting with Vice versa which succeeded brilliantly in transcribing the emulsion of emotions experienced by adolescents at this critical period of their development. After this tour de force, it is difficult to do better, and yet…
With his new feature film, Domee Shi plunges us into the heart of the beast age alongside Meilin Lee. The 13-year-old girl is torn between her image as a model girl in the eyes of her mother and that of a cool young girl with her friends. While it’s already not easy to navigate between all her emotions, she discovers a strange curse that makes her turn into a red panda whenever she is overwhelmed by her feelings.
It’s a rather familiar subject for the filmmaker, who won an Oscar for her short film Bao in 2018. This touching fable told the story of a saddened mother after the departure of her son, who rediscovers the pleasure of mothering when one of her ravioli comes to life. But she will quickly realize that nothing stays small and cute forever. This time, she offers us the opposite by telling the story from the point of view of the teenager.
Hormones, anxiety and tutti quanti
We are not going to hide it, on paper, adolescence ticks all the boxes of the thankless period that we would like to put away behind us once and for all. So the idea of reliving in front of a screen all these moments of embarrassment, anguish and deep sadness is not very exciting. However, Domee Shi’s film brilliantly manages to take a tender look at all these tribulations.
An impeccable narration that allows the story to navigate between moments of comedy and pure dramatic outbursts. Meilin quickly imposes itself as an avatar of our adolescence; if you were born in the 2000s, it will be very difficult for you not to find yourself in it. However, nothing is spared him. Pixar also approaches puberty from a unique prism, with disconcerting honesty. It talks about the weight of family heritage and traditions, the repetition of ancestral patterns and the difficulty for adolescents to build benchmarks in this period of great emotional upheaval.
In many ways, Red alert pushes the cursor further than Vice versa, even if the poetry is a little less present. We also quickly become attached to the other characters who populate this plot, from the group of slightly crazy girlfriends to the ultra-protective mother, passing by the discreet patriarch.
A pop and colorful universe
Even beyond the scope of his story, the strength ofRed alert lies also and above all in its staging. Before our amazed eyes, the filmmaker takes us to a Toronto tinged with pastel colors, with visually endearing characters and an explosive mix of inspirations.
Domee Shi draws on pop culture to illustrate the early 2000s, borrowing visual elements from Sailor Moon or the stop-motion films of Wes Anderson. She is not afraid of patchwork.
A palette of textures and colors that is successful, and which allows the film to take on its full symbolic dimension. The red panda, a thinly disguised metaphor for female puberty (menstruation, anger, excitement), is a success and will surely sell by the millions in the stalls of Disney.
For children, but not only…
Creating films that appeal to both children and their parents is the hallmark of Pixar. The studios mischievously manage to slip in plot elements, eminently adult questions. Red alert no exception, we would even say that it seems to have been designed more for nostalgic young adults. The film revives for the occasion a musical genre that we thought had disappeared on the old continent: boy bands.
To create the first boy band in Pixar history, Domee Shi called on Billie Eilish and Finneas. The two artists have thus composed three songs, which appear at several points in the footage. A way for the director to anchor a little more the desires for emancipation of the young Meilin, and to transport the spectators to the heart of the 2000s, a time when the Backstreet Boys, Alliage and other groups of the genre were legion. Sleeveless shirts, headband and baggy on tank tops, no doubt the nostalgia is there.
After a Luke a little too wise, the Pixar studios return to a formula that he masters perfectly. Ambitious, funny and inspired, Domee Shi’s film is a whimsical dive into the heart of the thankless period, which has nothing to envy to Vice versa. The director of Bao lived up to its reputation, Red alert is furry! Only point that taints the experience, the impossibility for the spectators to discover it on the big screen.
Encanto was a small success in theaters, the risk of offering an animated film in the cinema after the Covid is still too great for the firm with big ears. Too bad, he had the potential to win. We will nevertheless have to be satisfied with a release on Disney + from March 11, 2022.
Watch Red Alert on Disney+