REVIEW / FILM REVIEW – Domee Shi, who distinguished herself with the excellent short film “Bao”, is back at Pixar with her first solo feature film: “Red Alert”.
Red alert: a new theme for Pixar studios
Definitely, Disney cruelly lacks consideration for Pixar studios lately. After Drunk and Luke, Red alert is the third consecutive film from the lamp studio to be released directly on Disney+. A state of affairs that has the gift of annoying the creators at Pixar. Fortunately, Buzz Lightning will come out, a prior well in the cinema next June.
With Red alert, the filmmaker Domee Shi embarks on his first solo feature film. She tells about the fate of Meilin Lee. A 13-year-old girl intelligent and talented, but sometimes uncomfortable in her skin, sees her life turned upside down when she discovers that she can transform into a giant red panda. Torn between her desire for freedom and her family responsibilities vis-à-vis her ultra-protective mother, this new chaos of adolescence does not help matters.
With Red alertDomee Shi addresses a new theme in the Pixar universe: the passage of adolescence. Touched in forwarding and Luke, Red alert fully develops the wanderings of adolescence, this time from the female point of view. A subject virtually unheard of in the Pixar landscape, only truly dealt with in the past on a single occasion with Rebel. Domee Shi thus makes it possible to give a whole new voice to modern female youth underrepresented in the cinema of Pixar studios.
The red alert also turns to Asian culture. After Italy with Luke, Afro-American jazz with Drunk, and Mexico with coconut, Red alert is interested in Chinese beliefs. Via this legend of an ancestral red panda, the director offers her country of origin a touching, colorful, and exciting tribute.
Qualities, but not the best Pixar
Unfortunately, Domee Shi does not really manage to breathe new life into all these themes. If it addresses the questions of adolescence, belonging, the liberation of oneself and of women, it does not really do so through a new prism. The filmmaker does not avoid all clichés. And the treatment of this female adolescence does not really leave the beaten track.
The oppressive maternal figure does not bring new answers. And the representation of the red panda as an allegory of behavioral and physical changes lacks creativity. Likewise, to stage a female red panda twerking on pop music is not necessarily the most subtle way of talking about female emancipation...
But ultimately, the biggest surprise with Red alert it’s that it’s closer to the Disney formula than that of previous Pixar works. Even if the animation is once again stunning and very colorful the tone turns out eccentric and sometimes breathless, while the characters, quite clichés of modern adolescence, lack depth. Moreover, the situations set up, very urban, are also closer to the Disney recipe.
There is no break in the face of a frantic pace and the feature film lacks breathing space. Thereby, Red alert turns out to be less touching and funny than the majority of Pixar productions, without being a shame for the studio.
Red alert by Domee Shi, on Disney+ March 11, 2022.