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Movie Review: Pixar does it again: ‘Elemental’ is a moving feature that is more than just a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ love story

Pixar does it again. Their latest release, ‘Elemental’ presents us with an interesting Romeo and Juliet love story but set against the backdrop of an immigrant story and a coming-of-age story about reconciling our parent’s sacrifices for us. It’s a lot to do while building a world that is unlike we’ve ever seen. Director Peter Sohn imagines a world where the four classic elements – fire, water, earth, and air – are alive and have very human characteristics.

It’s the story of Ember, a fire person, whose parents have left their original home to move to Element City and have started a shop that sells authentic fire items and has become the heart of Fire Town. Her father, Bernie, plans to retire soon and leave the shop with his daughter, the moment he is sure that she can control her temper. But things turn upside down when she meets a city inspector, a water person named Wade and while they discover that Bernie’s do-it-yourself aesthetics may have gotten him so citations and fines, Wade and Ember discover a spark between them.

Of course, Bernie is against any water person, a prejudice that was born out of fear that water people would snuff out their fire. At the same time, the history of Element City is that it was the water people that arrived in the land first and so the whole infrastructure of the metropolis is water-based. Huge canals allow transport throughout the city and water splashes in and out of everywhere. The earth people arrived next and they are welcome the way by which water allows things to grow on their bodies. Air came next and found themselves easily to slip into things. The fire people arrived last and thus found themselves in a city that threatens their existence and so they build fire town just on the outskirts.

MEET MY MOM — In Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental,” go-with-the-flow guy Wade (Mamoudou Athie) introduces fiery young woman Ember (voice of Leah Lewis) to his mom, Brook (voice of Catherine O’Hara). Ember is decidedly out of her element, but quickly warms up to his family. Directed by Peter Sohn (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Party Cloudy” short) and produced by Denise Ream (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Cars 2”), Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental” releases on June 16, 2023. © 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

As the film unfolds and Ember and Wade must figure out how to save Bernie’s shop from closing down due to a leak in the water system, they also begin to fall in love and asks an essential question: can we truly love someone who is different from us?

Sohn and his team design this world with so much heart and flair. The city is alive with color and they take into account all the eccentricities of a world where the inhabitants are made of the elements. Imagining a house made of glass and filled with water to accommodate the water people or the various transportation available for each person depending on their elemental type. Fire people have affinity to steel and metal. It is such a vibrant concept that takes flight in various forms that it’s so exciting to watch.

LIGHTHEARTED FUN — In Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental,” go-with-the-flow guy Wade (Mamoudou Athie) ushers fiery young woman Ember (voice of Leah Lewis) out of her comfort zone to experience Elemental City like never before. Directed by Peter Sohn (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Party Cloudy” short) and produced by Denise Ream (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Cars 2”), Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental” releases on June 16, 2023. © 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Even the physics of what happens when Wade and Ember come close to each other. He begins to boil as she comes close to him. The light of her fire changes matching her mood. Everything about the film’s visual design is inextricably linked to the ebb and flow of the story’s emotional progression.

Because as Ember and Wade navigate the complicated nature of their feelings, Ember must also face the equally complex feelings she has about her father and her history. For as much as this is a love story, it is also a father-and-daughter story that is rooted into the immigrant story. The culture of the fire people, as it is envisioned in the movie, is so wonderfully encapsulated. There are shades of various eastern cultures with the way the music and cultural affectations are presented – from bowing, beliefs, music, and food – though at no time, I felt that it was mocking or parodying any existing culture. The language, “firish” that was designed for the film is an original language from the same person who designed the original languages from ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Dune.’

When this much care has been taken to build the world, it’s no doubt that the emotions that run through the film are just as moving. Even the character design of Ember and Wade, that she would be so guarded and withdrawn and Wade being so emotionally available and sensitive and open-minded creates comparisons to the contemporary world. It asks us to open our minds and really see that the difference that we all have just makes the world a much more rich and beautiful place and that should they find chemistry within their mingling, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it.

It’s so wonderfully done that the romance that blossoms between Ember and Wade is symbolic for interracial couplings, maybe even same sex couples, or couples who come from different religions. The film has such a powerful beating heart that it reaches out from the screen and grabs hold of you. The visuals are insane, the voice acting is precise, and the music is so infectious. Pixar does it again.

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review

ELEMENTAL is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Buy your tickets here.

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Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
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