- Mamoudou Athie, Leah Lewis
- Peter Sohn
- Not Yet Rated
- Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family
- Release date
- June 16, 2023
Long gone are the days of Pixar-perfect animated features. With Elemental, today’s Disney · Pixar exquisitely displays their complete lack of pluck, subtlety, and skill of just a few short years ago.
Set in the diverse and fictional city of Elemental (in which the citizenry is comprised of beings made from one of the four elements – get it?), Disney · Pixar’s latest piece of propaganda veiled behind a narrative veneer thinner than a Hunter Biden crack-ho follows Ember, the daughter of immigrants, as she tries to deal with her firey temper (do you get it? she’s made of fire). Once she does, she’ll finally be able to take over the family business and fulfill her father’s American…er Elemental dream, but that may be more of a challenge than anyone anticipated. That is until she meets and ultimately falls in love with the water elemental, Wade.
Wade is a pudgy loser who cries at the drop of a hat and has few redeemable qualities other than being polite. In a movie that contains cloud people who look like cartoon farts, the most unbelievable thing in Elemental is that the strong and assertive (at least until the film needs her to be otherwise) Ember would find anything appealing about the wimpy Wade.
Between the schlocky and unoriginal writing and bland and uninspired animation, never once in the film’s interminable 1 hour and 45 minutes do the two leads display any chemistry; but they’re not alone. Except for one or two brief moments between Ember and her father early in the film, every character interaction is predictive text formulaic and two-dimensional.
Not to be outshone, from the rainbow logo to the cliché racist security officer, the story’s themes are also handled with all of the grace and subtlety of President Biden dodging a bribery question. Instead of the deep and touching nuance of UP’s opening 10 minutes or the heart and universally experienced themes found in The Incredibles, Elemental spends most of its 105 minutes beating the audience over the head with poorly conceived reasoning, the most convenient inter-story movie physics ever in the history of animated features, and agenda-driven drivel.
The film’s main conflict is that, while the earth, wind, and water folks all live together in relative harmony in the wealthy part of town, the fire folk are treated as second-class citizens and are largely segregated from the others, going so far as to have an entire borough (made of brick) to themselves. The inherent problem in this hamfisted anti-bigotry metaphor is that fire is one of the most destructive natural forces known to man, and in Elemental, it is shown to be the case as well.
In one of the film’s many repeated gags, the main character tends to explode like living napalm when she gets frustrated, causing considerable damage to everything within a 30-foot radius. Furthermore, there are numerous instances of firepeople accidentally and intentionally incinerating or otherwise damaging property and even people. In one scene, Ember tells Wade of a time when a racist security guard wouldn’t let her father and her into a museum, saying, “But they said our fire was too dangerous and wouldn’t let us in.” Um, yeah… you’re made of fire. It seems more than reasonable to be cautious of an entire group of people who could kill you if one stubs his toe, let alone is shown to incinerate property with a thought.
All of this nonsense is couched in a love story that’s as watered down as its male lead, as the two star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the tracks dodge Ember’s father’s bigotry while simultaneously trying to locate and patch a leak that threatens all of Firetown. No, really. That’s one of the film’s primary sub-plots. The two have to find what ends up being a 20-foot rent in a key and centrally located canal lock that is easily seen from multiple locations.
Then, while the audience waits for Ember and Wade’s plot device… er… repair to break, they are treated to 40 minutes of meaningless conversations as well as a last-minute subplot that wrecks Ember’s character development, transforming her from a marginally sympathetic, loving, and hardworking daughter with a passion and deep respect for her family’s business to a stereotypical Leftist weenie who needs to find herself and express herself through art.
Despite a few moments when a hardworking and engaged father and entrepreneur are treated with a surprising amount of respect, Elemental is the least imaginative, most on-the-nose allegory in Disney’s recent past. Plagued by forgettable performances, uninspired animation, uneven pacing, and a subpar and boring plot, it symbolizes everything Disney has become. If you want a truly family-friendly cartoon, check out The Wingfeather Saga from Angel Studios.
ELEMENTAL ROLE MODELS
Ember’s father is a loving and engaged dad who is also a hardworking entrepreneur who built a successful business from nothing.
INAPPROPRIATE ELEMENTS FOR CHILDREN IN ELEMENTAL
- “Get off your lazy ash” is uttered once for comedic purposes.
- After being left briefly alone, a couple that may or may not be lesbians (the animation makes it difficult to tell) can be heard making out, but it’s really aggressive make-out sounds with a lot of panting and moaning. Then, we briefly see them groping one another before being interrupted.
- There are numerous instances of Disney’s “not-so-secret gay agenda” on display.
- When Wade, who doesn’t wear pants, is first introduced, he’s been misshapen into what resembles a very manly and muscular shape. When he turns around, we are “treated” to an anatomically accurate butt, crack and all.
- Some sexual innuendos will probably go over the heads of very young children.
- Although it is not explicitly stated, it is strongly implied that the two main characters end up living together unmarried.
- Elemental is the perfect metaphor for Leftist views of diversity. Here you have a mostly peaceful and cohesive society filled with a diverse group of people from completely different backgrounds and cultures. Then, on the other side of town is a relatively small group of people who are literally made of a deadly and dangerous substance with the ability to destroy everything around them just by getting too upset or even accidentally touching someone. Yet, the movie wants to preach that three-fourths of the society is bigoted for wanting to be cautious around them.
- Where 2016’s Zootopia used a giant cannon rammer to shove down such ridiculous progressive nonsense like a fox can be an elephant if it has a strong enough case of the feelsies, at least it was a well-paced, well-structured story in which the ever-present ideology was only the driving force behind the plot but not the plot itself. In Elemental, there’s never a moment in which some character isn’t spouting some racist cliché that no one in the cast or crew has ever heard said in real life.
- “Not all water looks alike.”
- “Go back where you came from.”
- “You speak so well and clear.”
- The lead male character is a watery blubbering beta who fits right in the friend zone.
- Ember insults Wade for coming from a “rich” family.
- Following your heart as the ultimate goal in life supersedes things like duty and responsibility or finding joy in doing good works.
- At the film’s end, the newly minted couple start their lives together while unmarried.
- It’s the gayest Disney film to date.
- At the beginning of the first act, Ember’s mystic mother does a “love reading” for a couple that seems like two women (it’s difficult to tell thanks to the subpar character designs – though I have a sneaking suspicion that that’s intentional).
- There are numerous instances of what appear to be same-sex couples in the background.
- Wade’s sister is a lesbian because she is (after all, she attends an art school).
- It’s been stated by others that this is a non-binary character. However, that’s never officially declared in the film. She is referred to as both she and her but does have a girlfriend and is dressed in what appears to be boyish clothing and sporting a short mannish “hair” style.
- Although it’s never officially stated, Wade’s unmarried uncle is a flamboyant painter who presents as super-gay.
- The entire film is a Leftist xenophobia allegory with loads of systemic racism built right in.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.