Starring: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Catherine O’Hara, Mason Wertheimer, Joe Pera, and Matt Yang King
Director: Peter Sohn
Pixar has set a high bar, but even with that in mind, Elemental is mid-tier Pixar. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a funny and endearing film that will charm audiences, but it’s also got some too-on-the-nose messages about racism and generational gaps in families that are addressed in a way that doesn’t feel fleshed out. The central romance, while cute, just didn’t work for me, and is a little rushed. In certain moments, it felt like it was trying to be Pixar “The Brand” over its own movie, which also didn’t work. It’s not an experience I regret, but it’s nothing I’ll ever watch again either.
Elemental is an all-around beautiful movie. The myriad of ways it visually mixes the elements is delightful, but it’s the story’s heart that makes it moving. At its core, it’s a touching immigrant story interweaved seamlessly with multilayered themes of love, tolerance, intolerance, and the weight of family legacy. Early on, some of the characterizations are a bit overcooked, but this sets up an emotionally poignant payoff by the film's end. Elemental is a heartwarming addition to the Pixar filmography, and one of its better outings in recent years.
Elemental is here to remind us of the great potential Pixar still has to make quality animated entertainment…and the commitment they continue to have in not living up to that potential. Don’t get me wrong, the film works fine, and the designs are some of their most creative in years; however, the problem is that the story is told in its most conventional form, rarely deigning to actually explore the world it occupies. There are some unique visuals and it does boast one of Pixar’s better scores in years, but overall, this one remains on the higher end of average.