Elemental is a 2023 American computer animated romantic comedy drama film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios and directed by Peter Sohn. The film features the voices of Leah Lewis, Mamamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Catherine O’Hara. Set in a world occupied by anthromorphic elements of nature, the story follows the element of fire, Ember Lumen (Lewis) and water element Wade Ripple (Athie), who meet and fall in love after Wade is summoned to by a plumbing accident at a convenience store owned by Ember’s father Bernie (Del Carmen).
Fire elements Bernie and Cinder Lumen relocate to Element City, where they face xenophobia from other elements and struggle to find a home. They have a daughter, Ember, and eventually set up a convenience store called The Fireplace, setting up a Blue Flame that represents their heritage and traditions and attracting many fire element customers over time. Bernie intends for the store to give the store to Ember to run the shop on her own, she becomes overwhelmed by the customers and runs to the basment. Her firey outburst breaks a water pipe, flooding the basement and ordering Wade Ripple, a water element and city inspector. Wade talks about the faulty pipe and unwillingly leaves for City Hall to send the violation report to his air element employer, Gale Cumulus, who will have The Fireplace shut down. Ember persues Wade but it’s too late.
Taking pity on Ember he takes her to Cyclone Stadium to convince Gale to be more forgiving and reconsider shutting down her father’s store. When Wade mentions he was investigating recocurring floods before ending up at The Fireplace, Gales gives the two of them a tight deadline to find the cause. If they are able to seal the leak, then the violations will be forgiven. While searching the canals for the cause of the leak, Wade remembers that Ember’s temper comes from her trying to tell herself something that she is not ready to accept, but Ember denies this. They then find a hole in a dam that allows wave runoff from ships to flood the city’s plumbling, so they close the hole with sandbags. Meanwhile, Bernie deals with water leaks all over The Fireplace.
Wade and Ember spend time together in the city and learn more about each other. Later, Wade tells Ember that the sandbags did not hold, so Ember uses her glassmaking ability to create a sturdier seal for the hole in the dam. Meanwhile, Cinder suspects Ember is seeing someone and follows her. Ember visits Wade’s family at a luxury apartment, where she uses her fire to fix a broken glass pitcher, impressing Brook, Wade’s mother, who recommends her for a glassmaking internship. Gale then calls Wade and give her approval of Ember’s glass seal, thus saving The Fireplace from closing down. Ember then realizes that she does not want to take over the store.
Bernies announces his plan to to retire and give The Fireplace to Ember. Wade takes Ember to Garden Central Station to see Vivisteria flowers, which she was denied seeing as a child. Gale gives her an air bubble for safety while Wade pushes her underwater through the station. Afterward, Wade and Ember discover they are able to touch without hurting each other and share a romantic dance, but Ember reminds herself of her duty to The Fireplace and her family’s prejudice against water elements and leaves, upsetting Wade.
As Ember is about to take over The Fireplace, Wade shows up and confesses his love for her, while spilling that she caused the broken pipes. Ember rejects Wade, but Cinder senses genuine affection. Disappointed, Bernie decides not to retire and denies Ember the store. When the new seal on the dam breaks, the fire district floods. After saving The Blue Flame, Ember and Wade become trapped in a room in The Fireplace, causing Wade to evaporate from the enclosed heat. When the flood subsides, grief-stricken Ember tells Bernie she does not want to run the store and expresses her love for Wade.
Pixar has had mostly great movies, but this one is only good, not great. It has a creative plot and relatable characters. It teaches about family, disasters, acceptance, and love, as well as following your heart. Conservatives may compare the fire and water elements being romantically involved to an interracial relationship and maybe that’s what Disney and Pixar were going for. Also, some may not like the rebellious nature of Ember and how she sneaks around to see Wade.
This is a film with such heart and emotion. It is a truly great story for the most part, but it does focus a bit too much on Bernie’s store and Wade and Ember’s relationship, than much of anything else. At times it does feel much like an animated teen rom-com with a bit of drama, so it’s definitely not Pixar’s best film, but no their worst either. It is a very sweet movie that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds you of the power of family, true love, and following your heart.
This is an entertaining film for most part, but older children will enjoy it more than younger ones. The plot is a pretty predictable, so not Pixar’s or the screenwriter’s or director’s best work. This movie comes off largely as overly sweet, which almost makes you miss the metaphor of racial acceptance within it’s storyline. Despite great messages within this film, it does not have the wow factor of other Pixar films. Some viewers will likely get bored, others may genuinely enjoy it and bawl their eyes out, children will likely get bored with it fast, as it is not as action packed as most animated films these days.
Overall, this film is filled with emotion, mostly romantically and family-wise. The metaphor of the elements of nature characters representing different races is is a smart idea, but that is about the only smart idea of the plot. Maybe the studio’s running out of ideas, who knows? Let’s hope not. This is a charming movie, but it it falls flat in entertainment factor, especially when up against others like the Toy Story films and Up. This one is not a complete win with the studios, but not a complete failure either. 3.5/5 8+