Plot: Set in a world inhabited by anthropomorphic elements of nature, the story follows fire element Ember Lumen (Lewis) and water element Wade Ripple (Athie), who meet and fall in love after Wade is summoned by a plumbing accident at a convenience store owned by Ember’s father, Bernie (Del Carmen).
Cast: Directed by Peter Sohn and produced by Denise Ream, the film was written by Sohn, John Hoberg, Kat Likkel, and Brenda Hsueh, with Pete Docter serving as executive producer. The film also features the voices of Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Catherine O’Hara.
Pixar has once again proven its mastery in crafting clever and imaginative films that profoundly touch our hearts. In this movie, the characters come to life through the four core elements of fire, air, water, and earth, coexisting in a harmonious yet segregated metropolis akin to New York City. While residing in “Element City,” these elemental beings live separately, as their unique natures prevent them from truly mingling. The water people, privileged in society, effortlessly traverse towering skyscrapers, while the fire people, reminiscent of Asian, Middle Eastern, and European cultures, are confined to Firetown, representing immigrant communities. Earth and air dwell somewhere in between.
At the center of the narrative is Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis), who, alongside her father Bernie (Ronnie Del Carmen), diligently works at their family store in Firetown. Bernie hopes Ember will succeed him in running the business, allowing him to retire. However, Ember grapples with controlling her fiery temperament when dealing with customers. She questions whether inheriting the store aligns with her true aspirations, given her extraordinary gifts, such as the ability to manipulate hot-air balloons and mould glass. Struggling to manage her emotions and connect with others, she often experiences explosive outbursts, turning her from red-hot to a cooling shade of purple.
An unexpected encounter occurs when Water guy Wade (Mamoudou Athie) enters the shop through a mysterious leak, potentially threatening Firetown’s residents. Wade has been investigating the city’s canal system, searching for the source of the leak. Determined to safeguard her father’s business, Ember embarks on a pursuit to prevent Wade from submitting paperwork that would shut their store down. However, circumstances quickly lead to Ember and Wade’s collaboration, and romance ignites.
The film commences with Ember’s parents’ arrival in Element City before her birth. Their culture and appearance subjected them to rejection, prompting them to establish their own business, fostering community among the fire people. The story unfolds as an immigrant’s journey, highlighting themes of overcoming prejudice and social class. Fire people face discrimination, being perceived as dangerous and consequently expelled from various establishments, ultimately residing outside the city’s boundaries.
The film encompasses various flashbacks and backstories, though some are executed more effectively than others. The dialogue reflects simplicity, as expected in a children’s movie. Humorous moments abound, including a popular sport called airball with a team named “The Wind-Breakers” and Wade’s comical struggles with Ember’s family’s hot food. Furthermore, there are endearing moments, like Wade getting stuck in a sponge as a baby.
The strength of the film lies in the chemistry between the main characters. True to the rom-com genre, the initial clash between opposites gradually evolves into a profound connection, momentarily disrupted by a misunderstanding, only to rekindle their love once again. Mamoudou Athie’s emotional depth and sincerity complement Leah Lewis’ spirited performance, generating a romcom-like ambiance. Hilarious first dates and encounters with parents ensue, all shadowed by the underlying issue of physical contact between Ember and Wade. Their romance becomes forbidden territory, as Ember’s father would never approve. “Elemental” boldly explores an interracial love story, a territory Pixar had yet to venture into. The emotionally charged character of Wade and Ember’s feisty persona forge a powerful connection, exemplifying Pixar’s ability to resonate with audiences.