With “Elementary”, Pixar produces an ode to multiculturalism that is a little too formatted

Flam and Flack in


With each new Pixar production, the same impatience mixed with feverishness: will the studio manage to reconnect with its lost greatness? This not-so-distant era when masterpieces followed one another, when young and old managed to laugh and cry at the same things, when each new film immediately constituted a fragment of our collective imagination. We no longer know when Pixar’s last great magic trick dates back to: probably coconut (2017), perhaps even at Drunk (2020), if the absence of the theater had not somewhat diminished the experience of the film.

In between, flavorless spin-offs (Cars 3, Buzz Lightning), films without ambition directly catapulted onto Disney+ (Luke, Red alert), nice and forgettable objects (Ahead, 2020). It’s because the Covid-19 has been there, justifying on its own the development of the Disney+ platform, which partly explains this leveling down: you have to feed an insatiable ogre, not paying much attention to the quality of content , more and more sanitized, less and less original. The zero-risk policy of Disney (which bought the studio in 2006), bogged down for a very long time in live action remakes, has finished contaminating its most innovative foal.

From afar, Elementary, by Peter Sohn (Arlo’s Journey, 2015), seems to promise a revival of creativity. In the city of Element City, the elements coexist, forming communities, each of which has its own district: there are the flamboyants, the aquatic ones, the earthlings and the aerial ones. Having left their native country to settle in the metropolis, Flam, an intrepid young woman, and her parents make a grocery store prosper where the flamboyant – largely marginalized – have become accustomed to meeting. Flam supports her father while waiting, one day, to become the manager of the store.

triumph of tolerance

Visually, the film asserts itself as the most ambitious seen in a long time, setting foot on a rather beautiful idea: Element City, like a whimsical and multicultural New York where each element would come to symbolize an ethnic community. They all look at each other like earthenware dogs (water being a threat to fire, fire a threat to earth…), and each interaction between elements becomes the pretext for a gag or a visual idea. We are here in the wake of Vice versa (2015), in this very Pixarian way of getting lost in the film as if inside a big abstract and electrified city that we would survey by ourselves – sometimes, we would think we were propelled into a painting by Marc Chagall.

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