Get ready to visit Element City! Pixar’s latest animated feature Elemental takes place in a world where fire-, water-, land- and air-residents live together. The story follows Ember (Leah Lewis), a tough, quick-witted, fire element; and Wade (Mamoudou Athie), a fun, sappy, go-with-the-flow water element. As Ember tries to find her place and set herself on the path to her future, Wade comes along to challenge the way she sees the world and encourage her to embrace her dreams.

The voice cast also includes Wendi McLendon-Covey, Catherine O’Hara, Ronnie del Carmen, Shila Ommi, and Joe Pera.

Fall in love with Element City

Elemental introduces one of Pixar’s most immersive worlds ever with Element City. You can really see the hard work the animators poured into this one. Every scene is vibrant and colorful, playing with the four elements in different ways.

It’s a lot of fun just to take in the scenery in this one, watching the background of scenes to see how things work in Element City. From Fire Town to the water train to the City Hall plant system to Air Stadium, the world of Elemental can really draw you in. The only drawback here is I sometimes felt like I was more interested in what Element City had to offer than the actual plot of the movie. 

I’m going to go ahead and guess we’ll be seeing more from this world; Element City seems like the ideal setting for a series of Pixar shorts on Disney+. I’d definitely watch more airball games.

Elemental: Pixar’s first rom-com?

Elemental is being billed as “Pixar’s first rom-com.” That’s… kind of true? Ember and Wade’s relationship does play a central role in the story, which is a departure from other Pixar films. It’s definitely more of a rom-com than Pixar’s previous projects. 

However, I’d argue it’s not really a full-on rom-com. First, I’m not sure there’s enough comedy here to count as a rom-com. Elemental has some jokes and gags, sure, but I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a full-on comedy. 

Beyond that, Elemental struggles with balancing its storylines a bit. While Wade and Ember’s budding opposites-attract romance plays a key role, Elemental also emphasizes Ember and her family’s story as new immigrants to Element City. The movie isn’t just about Ember stepping out of her comfort zone and learning to love Wade. It’s about her experience as the daughter of immigrant parents, trying to live up to their expectations and reconcile their dreams with her own.

The immigration angle adds a lot more depth to Ember’s character. But it’s also too important to bury in the background, which leaves it butting up awkwardly against the romance storyline that Elemental tries to put first. It feels like Pixar had two promising stories to tell here – one about a daughter of immigrants trying to reconcile her parents’ expectations with finding her own path, and one about about a romance that overcomes all odds – and by trying to cram them into the same movie, we got watered-down versions of both.

Worth a visit, if not a stay

Overall, I would say Elemental ranks somewhere in the middle when it comes to what Pixar has to offer. The studio has delivered plenty of features loaded with both laughs and great emotional depth; though Elemental brings a bit of both, it doesn’t really make it to “top tier” Pixar status. It lacks the subtlety and nuance of the Pixar greats.

Still, though the story doesn’t deliver quite at the level I’d like it to, the visuals and world of Element City make Elemental worth a watch. It may not be my favorite trip, but a day in Element City is one you can enjoy.

Elemental premieres in theaters June 16.

Meanwhile, check back to THS for more Disney/Pixar updates.

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