Thursday, March 2, 2023

Panda Palooza

Turning Red
Director: Domee Shi
Voice Talent: Sandra Oh, Rosalie Chiang, Wai Ching Ho
Released: Mach 11, 2022

This movie is Pixar's version of Teen Wolf (but better, though that's not that hard to do!). The main character, thirteen-year-old Toronto native Meilin Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), has to be one the most annoying protagonists in Pixar history. We are supposed to think this as her math teacher calls her, "A very enterprising mildly annoying young lady" (heh) and her nemesis, a fellow student named Tyler calls her, "an overachieving dork-narc." She has an overbearing mother named Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh) who she is always trying to please and she is almost too confident to a fault. She plays the flute and I paused the movie to look at the stickers on her flute case and my favorite one was a drawing of a right angle that said "I'm always right." Heh. It's actually very hard to see unless you pause the movie. 

Her family runs one of the oldest temples in Toronto where they honor their ancestors instead of a god. Their "most revered ancestor", Sun Yee, was "a scholar, poet, and defender of animals." She loved the red panda the most and Mei has a red panda cardboard costume she wears when tourists come to the temple. This will come into play later, but I really don't understand why she needs to dress up in a red panda costume.

Mei has a close group of friends that include Miriam, Priya, and Abby. I liked Miriam and Priya, but I found Abby (the one in purple) to be a bit annoying as she tends to shout a lot. The movie is quick to show us that these girls are boy-crazy teeny boppers (does anyone still even use that word anymore?) After school, they stop by the Daisy Mart, a convenience store, and they're all peering in through the front window (looking super obvious, btw), oogling over Devon, the seventeen-year-old who runs the cash register. Heh, I have to wonder if he was named after Canadian actor Devon Sawa who all the pre-teen girls loved in the '90s. All the girls are googling over Devon except for Mei. She is not impressed. She reminds her friend what "real men look like" and shows them the cover of her Tween Beat magazine which features 4*Town, the "Hottest Band of the Year" (and has five members, despite their name). They are a little bit BSB, a little bit N'Sync, a little bit One Direction, a little bit BTS. 

All the girls love 4*Town, but Mei may be the most ga-ga over them. I laughed over her introduction of the band to the viewers:  "Jesse went to art school. Tae Young fosters injured doves. Robaire speaks French. And Aaron T. and Aaron Z. are like, really talented, too." Bwah! I love the brush off of the two Aarons. Do you think they are the Chris Kirkpatrick/Louis Tomlinson of 4*Town? (Yes, I had to look up their names). Also, when did Jesse have time to go to art school? I'm not sure how old the members are supposed to be, but I'm guessing 16/17. This teenager who is in a superstar pop group has attended art school? Huh? Mei is the most infatuated with Robaire who is the Justin Timberlake/Harry Styles of the group.

Mei's mother is the more dominant of the parents, so her father is more in the background, but we do get to see him shine when we see him cooking dinner. This is an amazing scene that makes me feel like I'm watching an episode of Top Chef. (Ooh, now I want a Top Chef Pixar-style show with Mei's dad, Remi from Ratatouille, the guy who makes pasta in Luca, uh, who are some other chefs/cooks in Pixar history?) Lettuce is being chopped, oil is being poured into a pan, peppers are being tossed in said pan, dumplings are cooking in boiling water. None of this is even real, but the animation is so beautiful and amazing and realistic that it looks real and it makes me so hungry! I could really go for some dumplings right now. 

While watching TV, a commercial for the 4*Town concert comes on to announce that the tickets for their North American tour are on sale now. Ming doesn't get this group and is just shaking her head in disgust. Obviously Mei has never told her mom she likes this group even though you think Ming would pick up on this since she gets super excited when the commercial comes on. She tells her mom that she knows some of the kids at school like them, but because she wants her mother's approval, she doesn't tell her that she likes them too. (Obsessed with them is more like it!)

While doing math homework in her room (and listening to 4*Town on her headphones), Mei starts doodling a picture of a boy in her notebook. I assumed it was supposed to be one the members of 4*Town, but then she notices it "kinda looks like Devon." She draws a "sexy" picture of him, then rolls under her bed with her notebook and pencil and starts drawing more pictures, my favorite being Devon as a merman. Hilarious. When her mom knocks on the door to bring her a snack, she panics and quickly rolls out from under the bed and jumps on her bed, trying to be casual. In the haste, she had knocked her notebook out from under the bed so half of it is visible. She tells herself to be cool and not look at the notebook and attract any attention to it, but of course she does and her mom follows her gaze and sees it. She picks it up, thinking it's Mei homework and wanting to check it.

Now I find Mei to be extremely annoying, but there were times when I felt for her and this was one of those times. Her mother sees the "sexy" drawings of this boy, one of them being him holding a lovestruck Mei in his arms. There's honestly nothing that scandalous or predatory about these pics, but Ming doesn't see it that way. She is outraged and asks Mei if this boy did these things to her. The only picture we actually see where Mei is also in them is the one where we're shown so I have no idea what other things she drew. Ming immediately recognizes him as "the sketchy clerk from the Daisy Mart" because of his distinct hat. The next thing Mei knows, her mom has driven her to the conveniance store and she marches inside where she rips Devon a new one. Mei barely even has time to try to explain anything and even if she did, it's clear her mother isn't listening. Her mother definitely overreacted. I'm not even sure if this is the worst thing she does in the movie or another scene in the movie. Oh, and there is anther scene toward the end which is pretty bad. Oh, and one before that. Heh, even though Ming may mean well, she does some pretty embarrassing and unforgiving things to her daughter. 

In the scene where Ming is shredding Devon to pieces, I don't know who I feel worse for: Devon or Mei. Devon is being accused of things he's never done, but a bunch of other kids are there to witness this, including Tyler. Mei's mother has even brought the drawings which she slams down right in front of Devon as she falsely accuses him of taking advantage of her daughter. Everyone sees these and just start howling with laughter. Oh, man. Poor Mei. How absolutely mortifying. To make things worse, the next day at school, she will find these drawings all over because Tyler took them and posted them all over the school corridors. I don't know why Mei just didn't grab the drawings before she left, but maybe she just wanted to get out of there.

So this whole episode is the catalyst for what is about to happen the next day. She wakes up as a red panda the next morning. Now she's still her regular size (perhaps a little taller), but is just now a red panda. Red pandas are pretty small; about 20-25 inches long (thank you, Google), so it's not like she's the size of an actual red panda because than she would be much smaller. 

When she walks into the bathroom (and there is a pretty amusing shot where we see Panda Mei walking across the hall from her bedroom to the bathroom while her parents are at the kitchen table reading the paper and if they had looked up, they would have seen her (and had quite the surprise!). It's when she sleepily glances at herself in the mirror that she sees something is awry. But don't you think you would notice you were a giant fluffy red panda even before you saw yourself in the mirror. I would imagine having all that fur on your body and having a tail would just feel different and you would just know you weren't yourself. (Not to mention she could just glance at her hands, er paws). But this is a trope that's been done in Teen Wolf or Big or 13 Going on 30 or any body morphing movie. 

When she sees herself, she screams and shuts the door and her parents are concerned. Ming knocks on the door, asking if she's okay, thinking Mei might be sick. I got Christina Yang vibes when she asks, "Is it a fever? A stomach ache? Chills? Constipation?" Then she asks her if, "the red peony bloomed." OMG. Ewww. That's way too visual! Before I saw this movie, I had heard that her turning into a red panda was a metaphor for her getting her period (eh, I must have heard wrong because that's not exactly what it is), but I thought it was gonna be more discreet than what it turns out to be. Mei denies that she has her period, then quickly changes her mind and says, "Maybe" in order to explain her odd behavior. Ming thinks it is too soon (what is she talking about? Her daughter is 13! Most girls get it by then, if not even earlier!). She tells Mei she'll get her everything she needs and comes back later with everything she needs (if you didn't get the "red peony blooming", it's pretty obvious now with the supplies she brings). She just straight up barges into the bathroom without knocking first. So not cool. Honestly, I'm surprised she even knocked when Mei was doodling under the bed. Before her mom can see her, Mei has just enough tie to hide behind the shower curtain. I'm surprised Ming couldn't smell her since we saw Panda Mei take a whiff of herself earlier and made a face. 

Mei screams at her mom to get out, then feels bad for yelling at her mom and tells her she didn't mean it. She starts crying, declaring she is "a gross red monster" (don't we (females) all feel like that around that time of the month? I know there's nothing I'd rather do than just hibernate in my room wishing for death). Her mother is trying to comfort her, telling her it's not that bad. We see her hand reach for the shower curtain and she starts to pull it back to reveal Panda Mei, but then she becomes distracted by something burning on the stove and runs to the kitchen. 

So just for a second, I thought that maybe Mei didn't really turn into a red panda, that she just saw herself as one and everyone else would see her as her usual self, but no, she is legit a red panda in this.

Panda Mei scurries back to her room where she decides if she just goes back to sleep, then she will wake up as her normal self, as though she's convincing herself that she's just dreaming. She takes a couple of deep breaths and her panda ears vanish; she takes a couple more breaths and she's back to her normal self. The only difference now is that her hair is red instead of black; to match her newly acquired red panda fur. The second she excitedly exclaims, "Yes!", she turns back into a panda. It doesn't take her long to realize that when she gets worked up with emotion, she turns into a panda. 

Her mom drives her to school and Mei talks like a zombie, telling her everything is fine. She wears a beanie (or toque, to Canadians) to hide her red hair.  Her school is called Lester R. Pearson Middle School and I admit, I had to Google that name to see who he was. He was the 14th Prime Minister of Canada and served from 1963-1968. This is very interesting because I recently found out that the Canadian flag that we're all familiar with today wasn't the national flag of Canada until 1965! That shocked me because that's really not all that long ago. The flag they used to have was red with the Union Jack in the upper left corner (which is usually called the canton) and Canada's Coat of Arms on the right side of the flag. The Coat of Arms changed a few times. There's a lot of red space on this flag. Look, I understand they had the Union Jack on their flag because it's part of the Commonwealth, but their old flag was....not that great. You can see what it looked like (and the different variations of the Coat of Arms) in this link. It was Prime Minister Pearson who proposed Canada would have a new flag while he was in office, and he was right. Anyway, long story short, there was a few candidates for the new purposed Canadian flag (some just as bad as the old flag because they weren't all the different) and the maple leaf flag was the one that was chosen, as we all know. So Canada went from having a meh flag to one of the most iconic and well-known flags in the world. Smart move, Canada. Bet you weren't expecting a little history lesson! 

When Mei walks into school trying not to get overexcited by anything, her friends come up to her and tell her they know what happened last night at the Daisy Mart. Basically, Tyler told them that her mom went nuts and that she's kind of a perv. Heh. At first, she starts to (naturally) get angry, but she's able to calm herself down before she morphs into a big red panda. She just tells her friends that there was a misunderstanding. This is when she sees Tyler putting up the pictures she drew and she declares she's gonna kill him. She's not able to keep her anger in check because she notices one of her hands turns into a fluffy red paw, then she gets a fluffy red tail under her skirt which she is trying to hide, but to no avail. 

She is able to run to her math class without anyone seeing her tail and is able to calm down as she enjoys math and can just relax and learn. And everything seems to be going well until she sees her mom is outside looking super shady as she's hiding behind a tree and peering out around it. A security guard comes up to her and tells her she can't be there and she should go to the front office. (Which begs the question, why IS she standing outside the window?) We find out that Mei forgot her pads (probably because she doesn't actually have her period) and Ming lifts up the box, waving them so everybody can see. At this point, everyone in the classroom is looking out the window so they don't notice when Mei turns into a red panda. The only one who does see this is Ming. I get that they have Ming coming to the window and trying to get Mei's attention to to give her the pads so Mei will get super embarrassed and turn into a panda, but I don't understand Ming's reasoning in this at all. Why didn't she just put the pads in a paper sack, go to the front office, tell them her daughter forgot something important and make sure she got it, then they could have called Mei to the office and given her the paper bag. There. Problem solved. But yeah, I know, we need it to progress the plot forward. 

Mei the panda runs out before anyone can see her. She hides in a bathroom stall and when she walks out of the stall, she runs into a blonde girl who was giving me serious Quinn from Daria vibes (heh, if you ever watched that show). Panda Mei runs out of the school and runs all the way home basically destroying whatever she runs across. 

While following/chasing Panda Mei though the city, Ming calls her husband to tell him there's been an emergency with their daughter who she finds in her room when she returns home. Her mother is trying to comfort her and when her dad comes in and sees her daughter as a red panda, he asks, "It's happened already?" This stops Mei from crying and she asks, "What did you say?" (Oh, and in case if it wasn't clear; Mei is able to speak when she's a panda). Ming tells her that their ancestor, Sun Yee, had "a mystical connection with red pandas" and asked the god to turn her into one and she got her wish. She passed this down to her daughters when they "came of age" and they passed it to their daughters and so on. Ah, the family curse. 

However, there is good news because Ming tells her there's a cure. She knows this because it happened to her. Mei asks her mom why she didn't warn her about it, which I think is a pretty valid question. Her mom tells her she thought she had more time. To get rid of the panda, she'll have to undergo a ritual at the next red moon that will seal her red panda spirit. She shows Mei the necklace she's wearing which has her panda spirit sealed in it. I don't know, I feel like it would be better to keep that tucked away in a jewelry box than wearing it because you never know if that thing might break or something....just saying. Of course, I'm probably just saying this in hindsight as I've already seen the movie and know what happens. Ming warns her daughter that any strong emotions will release the panda and the more the panda is released, the more difficult the ritual will be and she only has one chance to banish it. Mei is dismayed when the next red moon won't be until May 25th, which is nearly a month away. 

The next morning, her friends come to her bedroom window (her room is on the first floor) to check on her. As fas as they know, Mei ran away because her mother embarrassed her by bringing pads. I love how one of her friends asks her, "You need more pads? I brought extra." Mei, in panda form, is hidden from the window so they don't see her. However she forgets she's a panda when Abby announces, "4*Town's coming to Toronto!" (Of course 4*Town is coming to Toronto! They just announced their North American tour and Toronto is the biggest city in Canada). Panda Mei appears in the window, excitedly exclaiming, "What?!" Her friends scream and she pulls all three of them in through the window (strong panda!) and tells them to be quiet and they oblige. She explains her red panda form as some "inconvenient genetic thingy [she] got from [her] mom." 

Her friends tell her 4*Town is coming May 18th and this upsets Mei even more because she'll still have her panda powers. Her friends make her feel better by singing a 4*Town song ("I never met nobody like you....") and she changes back to a girl. She explains to her friends that she only changes into a red panda when she gets too excited, so Abby pinches her and Mei gets mad, but she doesn't change into a panda. When she asks Abby to hit her (and she gives her a pretty good smack!) and still doesn't change into a panda, she realizes that being around her friends calms her down and neutralizes the panda. They all realize this means that Mei can attend the concert after all so that night they all decide they're going to ask their parents if they can attend the concert.

Mei tells her parents she think she's made a breakthrough and she goes through a test where they attempt to bring up sore subjects to see if she can control her emotions and not turn into a panda. This includes deforestation, a picture of a sad orangutan, and her second place spelling bee trophy. But it's not just negative emotions that turn her into a panda, it's also feelings of euphoria, so the last test is a boxful of adorable kittens and at first Mei can't control her excitement (hell, neither could I!), but then she thinks of her friends and is able to remain calm. Her mom asks her how she is able to control her panda and she replies, "When I start to get emotional, all I do is imagine the people I love most in the world." Of course Ming thinks she's talking about her and Mei confirms this so as not to hurt her mother's feelings. 

She asks her parents about the concert and her mom replies, "absolutely not." She doesn't think Mei will be able to stay calm and will get too excited at the concert. I have to agree with Ming here. In fact, we see Mei daydreaming about attending the concert with her friends and they're all screaming their heads off and going crazy. There's no way she would not get excited even with her friends around. However, even if there wasn't the whole panda business thing going on, Ming still would have told her no. After Mei goes to her room in a huff, Ming is venting to her husband. She doesn't understand why a ticket costs $200. "Who do they think they are? Celine Dion?" Heh. 

The next day we find out the other girls can't go to the concert either. One of them says her parents says she can go when she's 30, another one's parents called it "stripper music" (heh) and the third girl's parents said yes, but she has to buy her own ticket. The girls decide they're gonna go to the concert and will just tell their parents they're sleeping over at Miriam's house. I'm pretty sure she was the one who said her parents would let go to the concert as long as she paid for the ticket, so maybe her plan is to tell her parents the other girls are also allowed to go? :::shrug:::

As they're thinking of ways to make money, Abby asks Mei to turn into the panda because she wants a "hit". They're in the girl's bathroom and after Mei turns into the panda, the door opens and a few girls walk in, including the bubbly blonde girl who saw the panda the other day. I love that she has butterfly clips in her hair because I used to do that (only a couple times, though, cuz it took forever) back in the late '90s/early 2000s. All the girls are in love with the panda and think it's "the cutest thing ever!" and this is how Mei and her friends realize how much people love the panda and they can take advantage of that by having people pay to take pictures with the panda as well as receive hugs from the panda and buy panda paraphernalia. Mei tells her mom that she's joined the Mathletes (you'd think she was already a part of that club) to have an excuse for not being home after school. We get a montage of kids waiting in line outside the classroom where Mei and her friends have established their business (they never make any mention if any teachers know what's going on) as Abby collects money from them before they get a Panda picture or buy t-shirts or key chains. Hell, they even sell red panda tails. They also never mention where they get the money to buy their merch. I guess from their own stash. When one of Mei's friends sees Ming approaching with snacks, she warns everyone and the girls turn the room into a regular classroom where it looks like they're studying math. 

The concert is only a few days away and the girls are still $100 short. They're discussing this while sitting on the bleachers watching some boys run track. The girls are "whoo hooing" the boys (that sounds really dirty, especially if you play The Sims!) and Mei even shouts at one of them, "Are you a triangle? Cuz you acute." Oh, God, that is so cringe. I can't see any thirteen-year-old girl (any age, really) saying something so lame and embarrassing unless they were really that un-self-aware, which Mei may be. Tyler is under the bleachers and is ready to blackmail Mei. He asks Mei if her mom knows she's been "flaunting the panda all over school." He's having a birthday party and wants Mei to be there as the panda so it will be "epic". It's the day before the concert and she agrees if he'll pay her $200 and once he agrees to that, she tells him she'll only be the panda for an hour. Look, I know Tyler is a little sh*t, but Mei can't stay for a couple hours? Also, when do the girls plan on buying their tickets? I feel like all the tickets would be sold out now, but maybe things were different in 2002. Oh, have I mentioned this movie takes place in 2002? I don't think I have because it hasn't organically come up. 

I was confused during the scene when Mei is heading to Tyler's house for his birthday party. She tells her parents she's going to a meeting of the Mathletes, but isn't that right after school? I understand that Tyler's party is probably later in the evening, around seven, but why not just tell your mom you're going to one of your friends' house. Or just stay after school and call her from there and tell her you're going somewhere with your friends. I don't know! But I guess we need to have it this way because when she tells her parents this, her mom insists that she joins, which is just super weird to me. 

Earlier in the movie, Ming had gotten a call from her own mother, Wu, (who's retired in Florida) who had seen the news coverage of a red panda wrecking havoc around Toronto, so she knew exactly what was up. She had told Ming she was coming "with reinforcements" because she doesn't think Ming can handle Mei and her panda. And sure enough, as Mei and Ming are walking outside, Mei's grandmother and aunts (four of them) have arrived. Now Mei definitely can't go to Tyler's (not sure how she was planning on ditching her mom if her relatives hadn't shown up) because she needs to stay to open presents and eat and chat about the panda. While all this is going on, we get a small scene over at Tyler's house where everyone is sitting in the living room (boys on one side, girls on the other side) looking bored and awkward. Tyler, of course, is pretty irked.

Mei feigns being tired, then hurries to her room where she puts stuffed animals under her bed (honestly, does that even work in real life? That's such a cliche in movies and TV shows), but before she can escape out her window, her grandma comes into her room to have a little chat with her. She tells Mei she knows she's been changing into the panda because she found a tuft of red fur. She knows "it feels so good to let the beast out, so free", but warns her granddaughter that each time she does, it will get stronger and she'll be bound to it forever and the "ritual will fail." She says she and Mei's mother were once close (you can tell their relationship is a bit strained now), but the panda took it away. Wu has a scar above her left eye, so obviously she was attacked by Ming when she was in panda form. She tells Mei there can be no more panda because she is "[her] mother's whole world." Now while Wu is having this conversation with her granddaughter, is it interesting that she doesn't seem to notice that there is obviously something stuffed under her covers! 

After Wu leaves her room, Mei still sneaks out. She takes her grandmother's advice and shows up to Tyler's house in the cardboard red panda costume that we saw earlier in the movie and I mentioned would come back. So here it is. Everyone is disappointed and Tyler's angry. He tells Mei he wants his money back since he's paying for the real panda and "not this garbage." 

Her friends take her aside and she tells them she can't turn into the panda anymore (but doesn't explain why). They are understanding and each one starts sacrificing their spot at the concert (remember, they only have enough money for three tickets). Finally, Miriam (rationally) says, "If we can't all go, then none of us should go." The four friends are really sad and disappointed and a frustrated Mei says to herself, "just one last time" as she turns into the panda. This immediately livens up the party and we get a montage of everyone partying with the panda set to "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child. "Kelly, can you handle this? Michelle, can you handle this? Beyonce, can you handle this? I don't think they can handle this. Whoooo!" It's panda-monium! Yes, you may groan at my awful pun. 

Back at the Lee household, Ming goes to check on Mei and when she opens her bedroom door, the first thing she notices is that the window is open. Rookie mistake. You would think the next thing she would notice would be the stuffed animals under the covers, but it's the red panda merch that's sticking out from under the bed. (Mei really does a terrible job of hiding things). She looks under the bed and sees the money and all the evidence of what they've been up to. She also notices the flyer for Tyler's party so she knows where she is. 

But before Ming is about to show up, we get a scene of the four girls on top of Tyler's roof after Panda Mei giving panda rides and shaking her panda booty to "Bootylicious" and what not. They're excitedly talking about the concert they now have enough money for all of them to attend. So I haven't mentioned yet that Mei has a Tamagotchi. You always see it with her, but it's never really a huge plot point...until a little bit later. I remember them being a huge thing in the late 90s. I never had one because I was a little too old for, honestly, I didn't see the appeal of them. I feel like they would be fun at first, but would get boring after awhile. Anyway, Mei has named her Tamagotchi "Robaire Jr" and she tells it, "You're gonna meet your daddy." Oh, dear God, these girls are so cringe. And so thirsty. Look, I've had my celebrity crushes (Diego Luna has an open invitation to teach me Spanish anytime), but boyband crushes just seems so low-brow. :::Scoffs:::: 

They talk about Mei's upcoming ritual and Miriam asks her what if she kept the panda instead of doing the ritual. Her friends like how the panda has changed her, how she's more rebellious. They start calling each other and everything "da bomb" which cracked me up because I remember using that phrase in the early 2000s. 

There's a portable radio with them on the roof and we hear the DJ announce that 4*Town is coming to Toronto on the 25th, NOT the next day. Ruh-roh. Who didn't see that coming? Mei starts freaking out since that's also the day of the ritual and Abby tries to calm her down because she is sure the DJ is wrong. She gets out the magazine insert with the cities and tour dates listed on it, and sure enough, they are coming to Toronto on the 25th. It's Toledo where they'll be tomorrow. I can't believe she got the date of her favorite band coming to her own town wrong! You would think one of the other three would double check this as well. 

Because of this, Mei is already in a pretty pissy mood, but she becomes even more agitated when Tyler tells her she needs to get back to work (apparently her hour wasn't up) and she turns into the panda and almost ends up attacking him. By this time, Ming has arrived and sees what's going on. Tyler's parents are furious and she has to apologize for her daughter. After his parents tell everyone to go home, Ming walks right past Mei (who is expecting her mother to yell at her) and right up to her three friends and tells them, "I can't believe you girls would use her like this." She then proceeds to accuse all of them of putting thoughts into Mei's head and now she's "lying and sneaking out." She also blames them for using her to get the money for the concert tickets and doesn't believe that her daughter likes this group of "tacky delinquents." (Ouch, sick burn, Ming!) She concludes that her daughter is "a good girl and [they've] taken advantage of her." When her friends expectantly look at Mei to get her to tell her mom the truth, she says nothing and seeks comfort from her mom, Damn, that's cold. You suck, Mei. 

A week passes and we see Mei's three friends without her at the concert purchasing their tickets. Mei is eating dinner with her family and will soon be getting ready for the ritual to rid of the panda. She has a heart to heart with her dad and he asks if her mom has ever told her about her panda, but Mei says she hasn't; that she won't talk about it. Her father tells her that Ming's panda was "destructive" and "big" (and he ain't lying!) and that he only saw it once when she and her mother had a terrible fight over him because Wu didn't approve of him. (Don't get too much of that backstory, but I guess it explains why the relationship between Ming and Wu is a bit strained). 

The ritual involves Mei sitting inside a large circle that's been drawn with chalk and her aunts chanting in Cantonese. Apparently, the doors to the realm Mei needs to get into will only open if people are singing from their hearts. We find out it doesn't even matter what's being sung (a little foreshadowing there). At the last minute, Mei decides she wants to keep her panda form and breaks the ritual as she runs away to the concert. Ming tries to hold her back from escaping, but Mei throws her back and Ming's necklace (containing her panda spirit) ends up cracking. Gee, I wonder what ever will happen. Oh, look, her panda spirit is swirling around her. I think she's about to become a (big and destructive) red panda! 

Mei transforms between girl and red panda as she traverses through Toronto to the SkyDome (I guess it's called Rogers Centre now) and she's swinging through buildings and falling and flying like she's Spider-(wo)man or something. I love how she just free falls in through the stadium as the red panda and lands on her feet as herself pretty much right in front of her friends, who are pretty quick to accept her apology. She tells them she didn't say anything to her mother because she didn't want to disappoint her mother, but the thought of losing her friends made her feel even worse. Eh, I don't know. If I were her friend, I would have have given her the cold shoulder a little bit longer. She was touched because apparently, she had left her Tamagotchi at Tyler's and Miriam had been taking care of it so it wouldn't die. (So did you have to buy a new one if it died? Cuz if so, I bet those "died" pretty often so they would make you spend more money to buy another one!) 

Speaking of Tyler, they spot him in the crowd and they're excited he's a "4*Townie" and pretty much immediately accept him. Um, okay, sure. This is only the kid who humiliated Mei by posting those drawings she did of "Dreamy Devon" all over the school and blackmailing her to make her perform at his party. 

So the concert starts and the five boy band members are all dressed in white with angel wings (oh man, it's so hilarious) and everyone is going wild and the girls, especially Mei, look like they're about to faint. Mei is even close to touching Robaire when her mom, as the "big and destructive" red panda comes over to wreck things. And when I say "wreck", I mean that literally! You know how big Godzilla or the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters was? Ming's red panda is about that size too. And I thought Mei's red panda was big for a red panda! I don't know why Ming's panda was so freakin' huge! The 4*Town members, "flying" over the stage with wires look pretty terrified when they see this huge Godzilla panda stomping toward them and it's pretty hilarious. 

Ming is hollering at everyone to go home and everyone goes running because they don't want to be squished by a huge red panda and they're all pretty pissed that the concert has been ruined. (And let's remember, only the first song of the show was being sung when Giant (red) Panda Ming showed up. 

Luckily Mei's dad, grandma, and aunts have all showed up to help stop Ming. They need to perform the ritual on her so she can rid of her panda. None of them are strong enough to contain her, so Wu and her daughters break their jewelry that contain their pandas to help Mei (who is also in her panda form). These pandas must have some super strength because they're able to contain Panda Ming in the huge chalk circle Mei's dad has drawn. Mei's friends have gotten 4*Town to sing (remember, I said this would come back) so the ritual will work and Ming (and Wu and the aunties) are able to banish their pandas, but Mei keeps hers. So perhaps we'll see a sequel (or more) in the future. 

In the epilogue, Mei tells us that "people still talk about Pandapocalypse of 2002" and that Ming's panda is now housed in Mei's Tamagotchi and her Grandma's panda is in a 4*Town plastic pendant. God, how embarrassing!

They are raising money for the ruined SkyDome, so now Mei can actually turn into a red panda at their temple and they make money by taking pics and selling merch. (Sounds familiar!) Their goal is 100 million and they only have $10,000 so far. Oh, boy.

Here is a picture of the director (Domee Shi) with a red panda at the San Francisco zoo. How cute is that? 

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