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average rating is 3 out of 5


Brian Penn


Posted on:

Jul 17, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Peter Sohn
Written by:
John Hoberg, Kat Likkel, Brenda Hsueh
Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi

Whatever levels of technical excellence Pixar reach, it will never match the artistic purity of animation in the classic Walt Disney era. Nevertheless its young subsidiary provides highly watchable and diverting entertainment. Elemental is no exception to the rule with the customary mix of creativity and characters with attitude. Before the main feature we were treated to a ‘short’ which has become a staple part of Pixar’s output. Dug Days is a charming spin-off from the film ‘Up’ featuring retired balloon salesman Carl and talking dog Dug. This set things up nicely for Elemental to fill the next 100 minutes.


The story is one of outsiders trying to fit into an often hostile environment, and a sense of community that grows around their own kind. A family of fire elements immigrate to Element City. Bernie Lumen (Ronnie Del Carmen) works hard to build up a business to serve local residents. Mama Cinder (Shila Ommi) raises their feisty and fiery daughter Ember (Leah Lewis). Bernie aims to hand the business over to Ember when he retires; but she just cannot control her temper with difficult customers. Ember’s heart begins to melt when she meets water element Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), a city inspector who could cause no end of trouble for the family business. But can fire and water really mix rather than co-exist?


Elemental cleverly transports the cultural divide into a new setting with a narrative that owes much to Romeo and Juliet. Two lovers from different sides of life who challenge their elders to break unfounded suspicion. Think West Side Story meets East is East and the basic inspiration becomes clear. Throw in elements of discrimination and there is a pretty dynamic plot hiding behind the technical wizardry. There are some great visual gags and impressive set pieces that will keep both the grown-ups and kids happy.


Dreamworks are their closest competitors but now make films that look and feel very similar to Pixar. They will effectively be judged against their own body of work. Elemental falls into the ‘good but not that good’ category. It remains solid entertainment, although afflicted by forensic computer animation that is too clean for its own good.


About the Film Critic
Brian Penn
Brian Penn
Theatrical Release
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