The new Disney/Pixar feature film was an absolute joy to review. With its vividly gorgeous and colorful animation, brilliant world-building, and intense emotional impact, I was genuinely impressed with Elemental. It has been three years since a Disney/Pixar film moved me in many ways. That previous movie was Soul, and Elemental has loads of heart, soul, and passion to offer audiences of all ages.
The movie takes place in a world where the dominant sentient beings are anthropomorphic elements of nature (earth, wind, fire, water). Though these unique and different races coexist mostly peacefully, prejudices exist, particularly again the misunderstood fire people. Element City might get labeled a melting pot of a metropolis, but the elemental people live in their separate boroughs. Ember (Leah Lewis) is a “Firish” young lady whose parents immigrated to Element City before birth. Her father, Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen), and mother, Cinder (Shila Ommi), open a convenience store that caters to fire people in their neighborhood.
Through the years, Bernie and Cinder have been preparing Ember for the one day they retire so she can take over the family business. Even though Ember has a good heart, she has a red-hot temper that she often loses whenever dealing with demanding customers. Her ability to keep her cool is tested when Bernie takes the day off during their big red dot sale. Not only does Ember nearly blow her top, she accidentally busts a water pipe in the shop’s basement, attracting the initially unwanted attention of city inspector Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athea), a water person. Smitten with Ember, Wade decides to help Ember solve her family’s problems to keep the shop open for business. The two begin to spend more and more time together, sparking a sweet romance between them.
Written and directed by Peter Sohn, who co-wrote with John Hoberg, Kat Likkel, and Brenda Hsueh, Elemental is a delightful surprise, as I went into this screening with tempered expectations. The mixture of comedy, earnestness, and romance won me over. I was also impressed with how inventive the filmmakers got when it came to envisioning this world and all of its beautiful wonders. Sohn and his writing collaborators offer sharp commentary on prejudice and xenophobia, among other completely unfounded fears. The movie delivers some intelligent and heartfelt life lessons for children and adults who need them.
The voice cast also electrifies this beautiful film with much wit, comic timing, and zeal. In addition to the names I mentioned above, Elemental features fantastic voice work by Wendi McLendon-Covey, Catherine O’Hara, Mason Wertheimer, and Joe Pera. The real standouts are Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athea, both excellent as the adorable couple Ember and Wade.
Though Elemental won’t be my pick for best-animated movie of the year, it is, quite possibly, a close second. It has been some time since Disney/Pixar has produced an awesome film like this one. It pleases me to say that they are back magnificently,