Red alert: welcome to the beast age! [critique]

After Bao, director Domee Shi is letting off steam again at Pixar, taking the studio to unknown lands.

In 2018, just before seeing The Incredibles 2 on the big screen, we discovered with amazement the short Bao, the story of a little steamed ravioli coming to life under the amazed eyes of its human mother. This mature woman, suffering from empty nest syndrome following the departure of her growing children from the family cocoon, became so attached to this little being that she ended up devouring him raw, leaving the spectators in shock. Surprised by so much audacity, we immediately understood that its creator, Domee Shi, would be a director to follow. Four years later, she therefore presents to the public her first feature film, still under the Pixar banner, entitled Red alert. A title with multiple meanings. Because yes, there will once again be a question of devouring maternal love, but not only.

We follow here Mei-Mei, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian teenager, who presents herself as a lively young girl, very gifted at school and happy to find her group of friends every day to listen to their boy band together. favorite, 4 Town, which they dream of going to see in concert. When she returns from college, when she finds her parents in their Chinese temple to sell souvenirs, we quickly understand that the heroine is not so independent as that, her “perfect little life” being in fact planned by his mother, who is old on the grain.

As Mei-Mei grew up, her childhood crush on her singers turned into “crush” and she suddenly realizes that she’s not that good at controlling her emotions. One evening, once her maths exercises were finished in two pencil strokes, her hand began, despite herself, to draw a young boy she met in the local convenience store. The sketch seems a little suggestive for a girl of her age: she depicts him kissing a beautiful teenager or wearing a mermaid’s tail. By trying to hide it from her mother, she only arouses her curiosity, and it is the tragedy: her mother decides to drive her to the store to give a soap to the boy in question, believing that he is harassing her daughter.

The Pixar studio turned against Disney, which again switched its film to streaming

After the shock of this confrontation, Mei-Mei wakes up transformed into a red panda, a character perfectly “kawaii”and yet terribly distressing for her, before she discovers that her family is the subject of a “curse” which is transmitted from woman to woman over the generations. The main strength ofRed alert resides in the multiple meanings given to this wild animal. It will of course symbolize the overflowing emotions of the heroine during adolescence: Pixar had already developed this subject in an original way with Vice versa, but this theme is explored more directly here. Then it will also represent the appearance of the first periods – the time of a misunderstanding where the mother overreacts once again by landing at the colleague with tampons for her child, a real nightmare for any teenager who has been there! It also generally embodies adolescence (the famous “dumb age”had fun the promo), as well as the body of the young girl (“my panda, my choice, mom!”she lets go once she has managed to familiarize herself with) or even more specifically her female gender (“Does your mother know that you show your red panda to everyone?”, asks a secondary character during a party between college students). Strong symbols, which we did not expect in a children’s film, but which are precisely developed enough to challenge while illustrating the emancipation of Mei-Mei, who finally finds, thanks to this red panda, the strength to s oppose his mother.

Once these foundations are laid, Red alert then develops his second subject. After the recent Encanto of Disney, the complicated mother-daughter relationship here allows Domi Shee to offer a critique of the castrating force of traditions. By aiming too much for perfection for their children, generations of mothers get lost on the way, miss out on their own happiness and that of their offspring whom they wanted so much to protect. Mother and daughter confront each other in a final fight worthy of a “shonen”, their duel being staged with maximum exaggeration. This is undoubtedly the weakest aspect of the film, as the mixture of references to manga and pop culture seems crazy and sometimes downright vulgar (we would have done without twerking as an argument!). Visually, with its garish colors and just decent animation, it’s also not the most stunning animated film in Pixar’s history. Musically, everything will depend on your tolerance for 2000s pop, which is ubiquitous here: the Backstreet Boys beat the trailerthe tube “Bootylicious”, by Destiny’s Child, rings out in the middle of the story, and several wishy-washy tunes were composed especially for the fictional boy band. As for the themes addressed, they will certainly speak more to young girls and their big sisters/tatas/mums than to male audiences, regardless of their age (even if some have a sympathetic role on screen, such as dad, whose unfailing calm, good advice and cooking talent offer sweet parentheses to the ambient frenzy). A first for the studio which had hitherto imposed itself thanks to its ability to transcend all its subjects through an astonishing universalism…

Red alert all over the place and is certainly not perfect. It will be divisive, that’s for sure, but we can’t help but wonder if that’s not exactly what its director was looking for, who is obviously inspired by her own childhood (she turned 11 in 2000 in Toronto) to tell this story of transmission between several generations of women and sisterhood with great panache. His final dedication “to our daughters, to our mothers, to our aunts and our grannies. You are all magical!”, finally convinces us that Domee Shi has decided to speak above all to the women in his life (in her together?). The little schoolgirl in us thanks her.

Red alert will arrive Friday, March 11 on Disney Plus. Here is its trailer:

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