Elemental – movie review

What happens when water encounters fire? That’s the question behind Pixar’s latest animated adventure comedy, Elemental.

A glowing couple, Bernie (the voice of Ronnie del Carmen) and Cinder (Shila Ommi), arrive in Element City and are duly processed. Circumstances have resulted in them leaving their beloved home, Fireland. Element City is a place where each of the elements tend to mix with their own, to avoid the fallout that fraternising with others can bring. Bernie and Cinder take up residence in a dilapidated building before opening a good food establishment named The Fireplace. Soon enough the happy couple welcomes a daughter, Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis). In seemingly no time, she is introduced into the family business by her father, who hopes that before too long she will take it over from him.

But there’s a problem. Despite a deep love of family, Ember – now in her 20s – is hot-headed and loses her cool with difficult customers. Then one-day, while left to look after the shop, Ember’s temper triggers a flood. Swept into her premises is a city inspector, water element Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), who issues The Fireplace with a number of citations. These may well see the place closed permanently, a situation Ember cannot tolerate. In her endeavour to “right the wrong”, Ember begins seeing more of Wade. Against her better judgment, a meaningful close relationship between the two develops, although he appears more eager than her. Mind you, when her father finds out, there will be hell to pay.

Why is it that animation, like live action, can cut to the quick and be so heart-felt and heart-wrenching? I was pondering that as I was watching Elemental. The simple answer is because of the properties imbued in the rich tapestry of characters created by master storytellers. In effect, cartoons become human. They laugh. They cry. The feel sad. They get angry. And, so it is here. I freely acknowledge that I shed a few happy tears during this latest Pixar release.

Dare I say, there’s more than a little fire in the hero; and perseverance, patience and understanding in her beau. While the pair are like chalk and cheese, the outcome is never in doubt and the film is about overcoming impediments.

Elemental is written by John Hoberg, Kat Likkel and Brenda Hsueh who, along with director Peter Sohn, developed the story. I loved the creativity involved in crafting characters that represent polar opposites – in this case fire and water, with clouds thrown in for good measure. The movie begs for a kaleidoscope of colour and duly delivers big time. The picture is glorious to look at. The animators have done a fabulous job bringing Element City to life. More than that, the film has charm, pizzazz and spirit. It’s a good one for parents to take their little ones to.

Alex First

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