Elemental review: Pixar film is not a firecracker but its heart is in the right place

The Pixar film stars Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie

ELEMENTAL, Disney and Pixar’s all-new, original feature film releasing June 16, 2023, features the voices of Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie as Ember and Wade, respectively. In a city where fire-, water-, land-, and air-residents live together, this fiery young woman and go-with-the-flow guy are about to discover something elemental: how much they actually have in common. “Elemental” is directed by Peter Sohn and produced by Denise Ream. © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Ember and Wade in Elemental (Pixar/Disney)
  • 🎞️ When is Elemental in cinemas: 7 July, 2023

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 3/5

  • 🎭 Who's in it? Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi.

  • 👍 What we liked: The animation is stunning.

  • 👎 What we didn't: The film has a strong message but it doesn't deliver it well enough to be effective.

  • 📖 What's it about?: Ember is destined to take over her father's shop in Element city, but when her rage puts the business at risk she appeals to city inspector Wade to help her stop it from being shut down.

Pixar has made us feel emotionally invested in toys, monsters and even emotions themselves, and now the studio is trying to do the same with the elements.

Elemental follows Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis), a fire person who grew up in Element City after her parents Bernie (Ronnie Del Carmen) and Cinder (Shila Ommi) left their country in search of a better life. In their new home they set up a shop named Fireplace that Bernie hopes Ember will take over one day.

Read more: How Finding Nemo became Pixar's Bambi

Ember is keen to do so, she thinks, but she struggles to contain her rage and during a stressful day goes off, leading to a leak coming through the basement and bringing city inspector Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie) into her life.

With the shop at risk of closing, Ember persuades Wade to help her stop it from being shut down and they soon realise there's a spark between them.

Elemental (Disney/Pixar)
Elemental (Disney/Pixar)

Elemental is stunning visually from its elaborate cityscapes designed with specific elements in mind (earth, fire, air and water residents) which makes for quite the spectacle once Ember leaves her side of town to explore the city with Wade in order to save her father's shop.

Ember and Wade's romantic journey is developed in a sweet way, emotionally speaking anyway since the pair literally change each other's chemistry. Through her time with Wade, Ember realises that she needs to follow her own path rather than go down the one she feels obliged to take.

Which brings us to the real heart of the story: The immigrant's journey. Bernie and Cinder gave up everything to give their daughter a better life, and Ember, for her part, struggles with becoming a disappointment to her parents when they sacrificed so much.

Elemental is about love and respect from all sides of the familial relationship, and that's a worthy message to send to kids.

SUPERFAN -- In Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental,” fire-woman Ember (voice of Leah Lewis) and water-guy Wade (voice of Mamoudou Athie) track down air-resident and superfan Gale (voice of Wendi McLendon-Covey) at Cyclone Stadium where the crowd cheers for their home Air Ball team, the Cropdusters. 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. Photo credit: Disney/Pixar
Gale, Ember and Wade in Elemental (Pixar/Disney)

It's hard not to see the parallels between their story and those of immigrants worldwide, and while it is a strong message to present in theory the film has some tonal issues that ultimately diminishes its effectiveness significantly.

The problem that Elemental seems to have is that it talks down to its viewers, something that wasn't really an issue in previous Pixar films.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Pixar's Elio

Granted, Elemental is for kids and so judging it for pandering to its audience may seem unfair, but on the flip-side other Pixar films at least had stories that adults could connect with as much as younger audiences, and they also didn't feel as simplistic as Elemental is.

The animation may not be as groundbreaking or as poignant as the studio's classics, or even more recent Pixar films like Turning Red, but its heart is in the right place and that should count for something.

Elemental will be released in UK cinemas on Friday, 7 July.

Watch the trailer for Elemental.