Pixar’s latest film, ‘Elemental, continues their trend of turning abstract, ethereal or spiritual into anthropomorphic characters. No mean feat and not easy and here it takes the elements of fire, water, air and earth and builds a world around characters represented by each. It’s Ember (Leah Lewis) a young fire flame and her parents who move to a sort of water world city to start their new business, a café serving hot, spicy food and as she grows up and works in the shop she’s keen to inherit when she’s older. But as a flame she is something of a hot head with all the level headedness of a PTSD suffering Vietnam vet going through a divorce and having to deal with the sort of customer who think they’re beating the system by taking the free one in a ‘buy one get one free’ offer. It’s not helped that when a city inspector Wade (Mamoudou Athie), a water person gushes into the shop via a pipe leak in the stores basement writing up a citation for the family business to be closed down.
The hot headed fire flame Ember and the water globule Wade, who is literally and metaphorically a drip, begin a mismatched match romance not seen since a D-list actress / quiz show hostess set her eyes on a balding ginger half-wit prince. Her father’s business is now at risk of going under and as ‘elements don’t mix’ Ember & Wade’s burgeoning romance has to be kept a secret and the pair do their best to save the store and also the city which is at risk of flooding from the derelict canal system whish risks extinguishing the flaming residents.
As usual the quality of the animation is excellent with the elements of fire and water beautifully rendered and colour and form are imaginatively captured although air and earth are side lined to the point of invisibility in the story. The city scape is wonderfully detailed through its infrastructure is as fragile as Boris Johnson’s marriage vows. But there are a load of nice little touches throughout with several very good sequences with Ember dashing through the city keen to avoid getting water on herself or coming into contact with earth elements which she often accidently sets alight.
But Elemental’s issue is its story. At its best Pixar has taken abstract concepts in films like Upside Down and Soul and turned them into engaging and often very emotional rides but here the story is conventional and along the way takes in metaphors for prejudice and racial integration that are unwieldy. Like the Meghan Markle to Spotify, Wade can damage Ember’s flame irretrievably but when the city is surrounded by glass and terracotta structures that indicate the elements can and do interact successfully it makes their story of how they will ever stay together largely redundant and their story holds little surprise taking an intriguing concept but turning it into a rare misfire for Pixar.
Here’s the Elemental trailer…..