Elemental (2023) Movie Review – Brings fire and water together, but can’t make up it’s mind about the plot

Brings fire and water together, but can’t make up it’s mind about the rest of the movie

Until this weekend, Disney Pixar has yet to give us a romantic comedy. Elemental has the potential to humor audiences and then pull at their heartstrings just as much as any film the studio releases every year. A storyline that has themes of immigration, heritage, prejudice, and opposites attracting woven into it is easy to spot as it unfolds. It’s such a multi-layered animated feature that it’s hard to figure out what the film wants to be for its audience.

Elemental’s characters are, well, elements. Earth, fire, and water make up Elemental City, a place that clearly references New York City and the melting pot of cultures that make up the five boroughs.

The fire people look like walking flames in the shape of humans. Water people look like walking raindrops. And the earth’s people look like walking trees.

Here, we meet the film’s protagonist, Ember Lemen (Leah Lewis), as she is preparing to take up the mantle of running her parents’ neighborhood grocery store but her red-hot temper keeps getting in her way. It’s here we meet Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), a sensitive city inspector who bursts out of the pipes at Ember’s store.

The two immediately kick off a “meet cute” will they or won’t they storyline that is supposed to make you wonder how they’ll make it work. Because, as you know, fire and water don’t mix.

It’s hard to tell where the film is going in the first act. Is this a romantic comedy of enemies that will soon turn into lovers? Is this a plot-driven film that is focused on the stakes of Ember’s father losing his store? Or how much should we be paying attention to the social commentary? It’s almost as if Elemental doesn’t know what it wants to be for the audience. 

Still, all of these “elements” of the movie work well, some more subtle than others. There just never really is one at the forefront. The Romeo and Juliet love story of Ember and Wade is charming and never makes you roll your eyes at their sentimental moments. The Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scene in the middle of the film, where Ember meets Wade’s likable upper-class family, shows you that the Elemental has some things to say about class and privilege and how that would clash with the ideals of Ember’s parents. All of these themes are easy to spot for the adults in the movie. There’s nothing subtle about them, which is worrisome because you can’t help but wonder what the kids take away from it. 

There is a lot to unpack in Elemental’s 1 hour 42 run time. But like pretty much every Disney Pixar film before it, it does have a sweet sense to it that makes you want to forgive any of its shortcomings. Most of the movie’s tones don’t flow organically, but they’re never off-putting.

Elemental comes out with not too much of a heavy push in marketing from the studio, but don’t let that make you wait for it to show up on streaming. Disney Pixar has put out bigger films than this, but the positive message is a crowd-pleaser if you want it to be. 


Read More: Elemental Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

1 thought on “Elemental (2023) Movie Review – Brings fire and water together, but can’t make up it’s mind about the plot”

  1. Pixar has figured out a story-telling formula which has proven to at least be financially bankable, if not innovative or complex. The brand has seen a significant shift away from the harmony it once maintained between humorous characterizations and genuine human emotion, and this latest feature felt incredibly confused as to what it was trying to be. In my opinion, this marks the second directorial mistep by Pete Sohn, who’s previous film, “The Good Dinosaur”, saw Pixar declaring their first ever box office bomb.

    Pixar continues to be held in high regards within the public consciousness, and while this does mean that Disney can expect a significant percentage of revenue to be generated by powerful advertising campaigns, it also means that the public is more critical of instances of their lackluster storytelling than, say, Illumination, who almost exclusively makes pandering, lowest-common-denominator child fodder. I sincerely hope this example makes the studio rethink its core ethos and return to the storytelling of its former successes.

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