Certificate: PG

Voices of: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Catherine O'Hara

Release date: 2023

4 out of 5


With Pixar’s usual mix of dazzling animation and inventive storytelling, this charming adventure comedy is thoroughly engaging. Based loosely on the childhood experiences of director Peter Sohn, the film also touches on the immigrant experience from a personal perspective. Ideas about prejudice and fear are present, adding depth to the movie, even if they remain somewhat undeveloped in the background.

The story is set in Element City, populated by earth, air, fire and water beings. It has been years since Bernie and Cinder (Ronnie Del Carmen and Shila Ommi) arrived from Fireland, learned a new language and started their corner shop business. And now Bernie is planning for their daughter Ember (Leah Lewis) to take over. But she has secretly fallen for a water being, smiley city inspector Wade (Mamoudou Athie). The problem is that they don’t dare touch each other, because Ember could be extinguished and Wade might evaporate.

Bigotry emerges in this city because of the dangers fire represents to water, clouds and plants. And this extends to the adventure plot about a water leak that threatens to flood the fire neighbourhood. These angles give the movie’s animators plenty of nuance to work with, and the imagery is indeed spectacular, with sequences that are often jaw-dropping in their mix of hue, texture and interaction between various beings. The beautifully rendered characters are vivid and hugely likeable, with terrific voice work from an eclectic cast.

Even with the larger life-threatening plotline, it’s the opposites-attract love story that holds the focus, as the fiery Ember and open-hearted Wade circle each other, meet their amusingly colourful families and try to plot a way forward. This leads to sequences that are riotously funny, sweetly romantic and surprisingly moving. And even if they’re played a bit too safely, the ideas about marginalised people add some grit to a story that is simply delightful.

Is Elemental suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...

Aside from some mild peril in a couple of action scenes, there’s little here that will trouble children. The implied bad language and innuendo will only register to older viewers.


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