Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental” is an all-new, original feature film set in Element City, where Fire-, Water-, Earth- and Air-residents live together. The story introduces Ember, a tough, quick-witted and fiery young woman, whose friendship with a fun, sappy, go-with-the-flow guy named Wade challenges her beliefs about the world they live in. The voice cast includes Leah Lewis as the fiery Ember; Mamoudou Athie as the water-guy Wade; Ronnie del Carmen as Ember’s soon-to-be retired dad, Bernie; Shila Ommi as Ember’s love-seeking mom, Cinder; Wendi McLendon-Covey as Wade’s stormy and Air-Ball-loving boss, Gale; Catherine O’Hara as Wade’s welcoming mom, Brook; Mason Wertheimer as Ember’s admiring neighbor, Clod; and Joe Pera as an overgrown city bureaucrat, Fern. Directed by Peter Sohn, produced by Denise Ream, p.g.a., and executive produced by Pete Docter, “Elemental” features a screenplay by John Hoberg & Kat Likkel and Brenda Hsueh with story by Sohn, Hoberg & Likkel and Hsueh. The film’s original score was composed and conducted by Thomas Newman. “Elemental” opens with Pixar’s all new short, “Carl’s Date,” in U.S. theaters on June 16, 2023.
If there’s one thing Pixar movies know how to do it’s being ridiculously accurate in appealing to your emotions. Elemental was no exception in that department. I think this hit the hardest with many of the themes that were explored. The most obvious one was the immigrant experience we witnessed with the fire elements. This was perfectly illustrated in brilliant ways. It was really smart to make this story happen through the lens of the fire element because fire is made to feel like an other compared to other elements. This certainly connects to the feeling of being a stranger in a new land.
Then beyond that immigrant motif, Elemental continued on with the impact that experience has on future and past generations. I found the struggle to start a new life and hold on to one’s own culture extremely compelling. Not to mention, the additional pressure of trying to pass on one’s dreams to the next generation. However, on the flip side, try to figure out your dreams rather than taking on those of your parents. If that weren’t enough, the film tacked on yet another powerful theme of cross-cultural connection.
I loved how the two main characters, Ember and Wade, had to discover the challenges of simply co-existing near one another. The allegory and metaphors of water being with water were beautifully executed. My mind was always racing during the film on whether one would literally extinguish the other or if there was truly an interesting compromise that could be discovered. I also liked how their personalities were linked to their emotional states. Although I’ll admit I never expected to find crying to be so funny in this movie.
Elemental doesn’t try to alienate its audience, and it makes many of the themes practically ambiguous at times. There were moments where I couldn’t tell if I identified more with a water or fire element. Depending on your personal experiences, connecting with these characters and their situations won’t be difficult at all. That in itself, made engaging with Elemental that much more fun.
The world-building in Element City was purely fascinating. I loved how the movie would take puns and make them literal experiences in the city. For example, this film gives “the wave” new meaning at sporting events. Besides that, there are so many fun things going on in the background that most people may miss on the very first watch. (Check out our interview with Director Peter Sohn to find out more regarding the Elemental hidden easter eggs.) What also deserves a ton of credit is the stunning animation that made this world come alive. What was really interesting was how some practical effects were seamlessly included to really give another layer of realism to the film.
If I had to nitpick, I think the only thing Elemental lacked was a bit more comedy for younger children. During my screening, I like to see the reactions of the younger audience to get a sense of how they feel about the film. One thing I noticed was that they were watching the movie more so than reacting to the film. However, this reaction varied depending on the age of the children. When I think of a movie like Inside Out, for example, despite the rich themes that were explored, there were still silly moments that stood out for kids. The character of Bing Bong comes to mind in this case. I don’t think Elemental had a factor like that to really elevate the film for children. Nevertheless, this movie will probably be appreciated far more by children that really understand the concepts more as they grow older.
Elemental is a universally charming film that has the ability to touch the hearts of any viewer. Being a parent and a child of immigrants myself, this movie definitely resonated with me on so many levels. Pixar doesn’t fail when it comes to trying to make things unique and special. This film tells such a human story on so many levels that the rewatchability is really high as well. Be sure to go see Elemental when you can. Feel free to also check out our interview with the cast.
Director: Peter Sohn
Writer(s): John Hoberg, Kat Likkel, Brenda Hsueh
Stars: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Catherine O’Hara, Mason Wertheimer, Joe Pera
Elemental hits theaters June 16, 2023. Be sure to follow E-Man’s Movie Reviews for more reviews and contests. You can follow on Facebook, Subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter/IG @EmansReviews for even more!
Review: Why 'Elemental' Is the Fun New Pixar Movie To Watch
- Acting - 7/107/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/108/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 6/106/10
- Setting/Theme - 9/109/10
- Watchability - 7/107/10
- Rewatchability - 8/108/10