Media outlets, including yours truly, were hot and cold on Disney/ Pixar’s newest original animated film, Elemental. To be fair, based on the box office number trends and massive summer movies like Barbie and Oppenheimer, poor little Elemental fell by the wayside in comparison. It quietly went from the worst opening in recent Pixar movie history to comparable to the success of Toy Story! The point is that you can’t always trust box office numbers to determine your personal enjoyment. Now that the flick has finally started streaming on Disney+, you can review Elemental on your own time!
However, if you don’t have the time to risk on a movie that you may not enjoy, here’s the truth about Peter Sohn’s Elemental.
For those who may not be down with the slang of today’s youth, “fire” is an adjective meaning “exciting, outstanding, or gaining popularity quickly.” And it describes Pixar Animation Studios’ Elemental figuratively and literally.
In short, I loved it.
And I can be a pretty harsh critic. I mean, my Peter Pan & Wendy review? Scathing. And my Pixar Putt review? Watch out, mini golf lovers. Maybe it’s because audiences have been starving for new stories rather than familiar intellectual property recycled into live-action remakes or lackluster sequels, but Elemental truly feels refreshing. That alone set it way ahead of my initial expectations.
The storyline is lovely and, ultimately, rather simple in comparison to the complicated narratives some fans have grown accustomed to…I’m looking at you, Marvel Studios. Elemental follows the unlikely connection between the fire element with a dangerous temper, Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis), and the sentimental water element, Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie). They adventure together through Element City in an attempt to save Ember’s father’s shop and fire town in general from her mistakes and a leaking city dam. In the meantime, they learn about the culture of different elements and find out that elements can, in fact, mix.
The writing was adorable. I laughed at Elemental‘s silly moments, paused at the cultural discrimination parallels, and seriously cried at the end from a full heart. Director Peter Sohn described his immigrant family’s life in New York City as inspiration for the Pixar film and that true-to-life storytelling came through palpably in the character’s struggles. Keep Peter Sohn’s relationship with his parents in mind when watching Ember’s internal struggle.
The thematic elements were only accessorized with some of the most beautiful animation techniques that I’ve ever seen. The spectacular look and movement of each of the four main elements were absolutely stunning. The way that Wade’s water body reflects Ember’s light and is able to harness and direct it towards something – beautiful. Ember may boil and singe things as she walks by, but she also casts a shining light over everything she encounters.
The voice acting is also top-notch. Lewis and Athie give depth to the leading characters, and Catherine O’Hara, Shila Ommi, and Ronnie del Carme create a family dynamic that truly draws you in and has you rooting for either side. Somehow, Pixar manages to create another beautiful story with lighthearted fun and enticing visuals while delivering a sobering adult message about society, discrimination, and love.
In my personal opinion, Elemental is a more than worthwhile watch for the whole family. It’s time for you to review Elemental!
(If the last 30 seconds hit you as hard as they hit me, feel free to join my support group.)