There was a time when a new Pixar movie should be celebrated. That time has long passed. Their latest, Elemental, is one of the production studio’s worst entries to date, a dull, unambitious, and barely entertaining romantic comedy that isn’t nearly amusing enough to engage children–and too generic to appeal to adults.
Elemental is set in a city where the four elements (earth, wind, water, and fire) coexist, though why there’s a movie about the four elements living as talking, breathing creatures (monsters?) is anyone’s guess. With a theme about interracial couples or overcoming stereotypes or something, it’s just an odd premise with a lame story at its core. Think of Zootopia without the cleverness, Soul without, well, soul, and West Side Story without the music or violence and you maybe can get a sense of what Elemental is like.
I was already bored before the movie even started: Pixar’s short film Carl’s Date played beforehand and was equally as uninspiring as the main feature. But once Elemental gets underway, it becomes clear quickly that there just isn’t much substance here. The movie’s best moments generally involve goofy side bits involving other citizens of Elemental City–yet director Peter Sohn (who, by the way, made the equally uninspiring The Good Dinosaur) rarely takes us into the city to help us understand all the fascinating and weird elements at play.
The plot revolves around a fire girl (voiced by Leah Lewis) who falls in love with a clumsy water dude (Mamoudou Athie), despite the girl’s parents being completely intolerant to water folk. Lewis and Athie, or at least their onscreen counterparts, have good chemistry together and their budding romance is sort of cute, but it’s not enough to propel this movie forward.
The biggest miss for Elemental is that it forgot who its primary audience is: children. My daughter was bored halfway through, and at least a few other kids in the theater apparently felt the same way (I got so desperate I even asked my daughter if she wanted to leave, hoping she would say “yes”). The movie isn’t funny, it isn’t fast paced, and the conflict is so mundane and predictable there is only one inevitable outcome.
When you look back on the best Pixar movies, they all had heart, ambition, and yes, entertainment value. Elemental just falls flat across the board–it doesn’t feel like the studio tried very hard to make its next great movie, and as a result, Elemental just sort of sucks.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.