Disney/Pixar’s latest is a rainbow of colors.
In regards to the four elements of life (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water), we’ve seen Mila Jovovich or Elsa being revealed as “The Fifth Elements,” but rarely have we seen them in the forms of people. That’s where the new Disney/Pixar animated film “Elemental” comes in.
The visual world of Element City is like a rainbow you can’t stop looking at. The cloud people, the water people, and the way fire characters can change colors when it comes to emotions, glass, or crystals are all eye-popping. It’s the kind of movie to make even adults marvel. Maybe Wes Anderson or Jean Pierre Jeunet would love gazing at it.
It wants to be another “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Romeo & Juliet” story for kids, because of how the fire girl Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis) and the water boy Wade (voiced by Mamoudou Athie) are a match for each other, but either she could evaporate him or he could extinguish her or maybe they can connect well. It’s interesting to see how that would pay off.
She thinks it’s her obligation to take over her family’s business (which has some annoying customers who think “Buy One Get One Free” means you can take the free sparkler) and needs to control her anger, especially when she bursts into flames (literally), while he knows she can be who she wants to be.
The voice work from Lewis and Athie is charming in the way they shift in moods. She has the fiery attitude, while he has a lovable cartoon character appeal. And I liked some of the supporting characters, like Wade’s purple cloud boss Gale (voiced by Wendi McLendon-Covey) and his dotty aqua mom (voiced by Catherine O’Hara). They respectively can be filled with the kind of whimsy that makes their voice actresses so appealing.
There are a few reasons why I can’t give “Elemental” four stars, the way I have for Pixar’s very best films from “Toy Story” to “Ratatouille” to “Inside Out” to “Soul” to “Turning Red.” The jokes about Wade crying a lot is too annoying and repetitive for me to laugh at. It’s basically the same joke over and over again, and yet, the audience was laughing. I guess that makes me the Grinch in the crowd. And the subplot about fire people being discriminated by other elements is not there with how the fox Nick Wilde was misunderstood in “Zootopia.”
I needed time to think about my overall opinion based on those reservations, but you know what. How can I be cruel to a movie that looks like a rainbow and has two lovable characters? Director Peter Sohn (a Pixar regular) has made some considerable improvements over his previous directorial entry “The Good Dinosaur.” Again, the story is soggy, but there’s still plenty of life for kids and adults.
On a little note, “Elemental” is accompanied by a Pixar short, known as “Carl’s Date.” It’s the “Up” short, which was originally part of the made-for-Disney+ series “Dug Days,” but was given a theatrical release to honor Ed Asner who passed away in 2021. He was able to reprise his voice role of Carl Fredericksen before it was too late, and I’m glad I was able to see it on the big screen.
It shows his talking dog Dug giving Carl tips on how to date again, since the old timer lost his first and only love Ellie. And even if some of the jokes seem too obvious to top the Oscar-winning animated classic, I was still moved by hearing Asner’s voice. It’s kind of personal to me because I did a video chat with him the year he passed away, and it hurts me that we won’t get to hear or see more of his magic.
Asner was known to many people as Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or his various interpretations of Santa Clause with “Elf” being the best. But he’ll never be forgotten, and “Carl’s Date” gives both him and Carl a proper send off. Even the audience was in glow when the short film they were promised began.