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Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ Falls Short With Critics Who Believe Studio’s Magic Might Be Over

Disney’s latest Pixar film “Elemental” has fallen short with movie critics who, regardless of whether they thought the movie was worth seeing or not, agreed it doesn’t match up to earlier studio hits like “Toy Story,” “Up,” or  “Finding Nemo,” just to name a few.

“Elemental” premiered in France this month at the Cannes Film Festival with those in the audience giving director Peter Sohn a standing ovation for the animated rom-com movie. The movie is inspired by Sohn’s own family’s story of Koreans arriving in New York as immigrants, according to the Hollywood Reporter

The entire film is what one reviewer called a “metaphor for immigration and exclusion” as Disney produces another product that deals with race in this place where fire, water, land and air residents live together in a metropolis known as Elemental City.

The film, which releases in the United States on June 16, centers on the daughter of a fire family, Ember, who meets Wade from a water family. Fire people are shown as glowing orange torch-people who live in Fire Town.

Wade is shown as a gelatinous blue blob who comes from Water Town. In this metropolis, these water creatures can navigate the city easily living in posh high-rises, flowing wherever they want while Ember’s family lives in the ghettos, as one critic wrote, where these highly combustible characters can stay sequestered and smolder safely.

Despite the fact that there are four elements, many of the critics have noted that air and especially land characters really get the shaft in this movie, with basically everything centering on fire and water.

Ember and Wade end up meeting when lava girl’s latest furious rage breaks a basement pipeline in her father’s market. 

As one critic on Rotten Tomatoes — who gave the film a rotten score — wrote that the film’s premise of Ember and Wade learning to see beyond their differences and find common ground is too “predictable.”

The Hollywood Reporter movie reviewer wrote that “‘Elemental’ may be the first work from Pixar to feel like it was generated entirely by AI.”

“Not just the AI computing all the imagery, but literally an algorithm putting together a perfect Pixar movie,” the person wrote. “The problem, of course, is that the originality is mostly absent here, as is the thematic risk-taking that drove films like ‘Wall-E’ (the planet almost dies!) or ‘Inside Out’ (Bing Bong dies!) or ‘Coco’ (people die!).”

“In Elemental, Pixar’s usual ambitious leap into the unknown is more of a safe dip into calm waters — water being one of the four elements driving the story, although only two of them really count here — and much about it seems familiar,” he added.

He wrote the “film’s major flaw” is that it “feels entirely predictable. Maybe we’ve all seen too many Pixar movies by now, and so if Elemental were the studio’s first-ever release instead of its umpteenth one, it would seem more surprising, more daring.”

“Instead, the elements all fit perfectly into place — so much so that the creative flames are doused, and we’re left without much of an impression,” he continued.

One critic on the movie site gave it a fresh score, while still labeling it a “misfire.”

“The whole scenario seems forced: so much world-building to tell a story better suited to flesh-and-blood human characters,” Variety’s critic wrote.

“Instead of giving [kids] a deeper understanding of Fire, Water, etc., the over-complicated premise creates all sorts of confusing new rules for kids to learn — rules which don’t really apply outside the film,” the critic added.

“‘Elemental’ is so elaborate and calls for so much exposition that the briskly paced movie is still trying to shoehorn essential backstory into the film’s final reel,” the critic continued. “Sohn should have made the plot simpler, not faster. There’s poetry and soul here, but both are watered down by how much the movie seems to be multitasking. With Pixar, sincerity is elemental. The rest risks distracting from what really matters.”

Other reviewers compared the film to more recent Pixar films like “Luca,” “Turning Red,” and “Lightyear,” which bombed in the theater, rather than the studio’s huge hits like “Wall-E,” “Ratatouille,” and “Up.”

The Wrap” movie reviewer wrote that “as a feat of pure visual craftsmanship, ‘Elemental’ is anything but simple, often delighting the eyes with inventive character designs and trailblazing animation techniques.”

“Though as return to form for Pixar itself – a rekindling of that fire that set hearts ablaze by wedding prodigious technique to (ahem) elementally simple metaphor – the film falls somewhat short of previous highs,” the reviewer added. “By way of pure storytelling magic, the film also unfortunately lives up to its title.”

In 2022, Disney’s Pixar filmLightyear” bombed at the box office. It was booked as an origin story to the film’s favorite character Buzz Lightyear and not another “Toy Story.” However, with an LGTBQ love story which included a same-sex kiss and the removal of Tim Allen as the beloved voice of Buzz in place of Chris Evans, families didn’t turn out as Disney had expected.

It followed Pixar’s “Turning Red” about a girl dealing with puberty, which met a similar fate when parents realized they couldn’t let their kids watch it unless they were older due to the animated film’s sexual themes.

Disclosure: The Daily Wire has announced plans for kids’ entertainment content.


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