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Elemental | Review by: Amanda Guarragi
Over the years, Pixar has been known for stunning 3D animation and heartfelt stories that can resonate with adults and children alike. They did have a string of successful films. But lately, they are having trouble capturing the same magic as they used to. In Disney Pixar’s Elemental, we meet a family from Fireland who is trying to make a living on the outskirts of Element City. Element City acts like the capital, and the accepted community consists of Earth, Water, and Air. The story of Bernie (Ronnie Del Carmen), Ember (Leah Lewis), and Cinder (Shila Ommi) plays out as an immigrant story that has the potential to be impactful. However, the film began to falter when co-writers John Hoberg, Kat Likkel and Brenda Hseuh decided to throw in a love story of star-crossed lovers.
Director Peter Sohn opened the film with promise. It felt like a strong origin tale for the characters. Bernie’s dream was to open up his shop, and Ember’s dream was to take over the shop from her dad. This fell into generic territory right after, as the father/daughter storyline did not have an emotional connection carry the film. It became repetitive as Ember tried to please her father and cross obstacles to save the store. Some moments should have been emotional because the story beats were there, but something was missing. Once Wade (Mamoudou Athie) entered the picture, the story between father and daughter was put on the back burner. There was no balance between the two, and it seemed that they wanted to focus more on the love story that carried the second half.
The animation wasn’t the strongest either. It is disappointing because it’s Pixar. Even though there was close attention to detail in each community, the designs felt outdated at the same time. The abilities of each of the elements were impressive, but they didn’t do much throughout. Some scenes are consecutive but don’t seem to transition into each other well. It also felt overly long, and they didn’t have enough story to stretch it for as long as they did. The writing for Ember and Wade also felt detached and forced at times to mirror an interracial relationship. On top of that, the humour did not land, and there were a lot of empty moments. The film addresses many issues about one’s identity in the world and finding their place, and hopefully, children will be able to connect with it.
Elemental had elements that worked, but sadly they did not know which story to tell. For some reason, it didn’t feel balanced, nor did they blend both stories seamlessly. The first act was meant for the father/daughter storyline, and the second was dedicated to the romance, which inevitably made the ending weak. There were two clashing ideas. The father/daughter storyline was cast to the side, and that one is more impactful for children. Its repetitiveness makes the film drag to its final moments. The characters aren’t as charming as others from Pixar, so they aren’t memorable other than for the character designs. Unfortunately, this animated feature is one of the weaker instalments for Pixar and has more of an audience for adults than children. Usually, they’d be able to strike a balance for the two to make it a well-rounded family film.